This is Part 1 of The Love What You Do Series. Look for the rest of the series from now until Valentine’s Day.
“I have no idea what I want to do and I’ve been floating around to different jobs for years.”
“I’m just starting my career and I have no idea what direction to go in. I feel like school didn’t prepare me.”
“I hate my current industry and I want to find something that I like more but I’m scared to make a change.”
“I don’t feel fulfilled by my work but I’ve only been working for a couple of years and I’m scared to make a big change.”
“I’m just not good at my job. I don’t think it’s the right fit for my personality and I’m miserable.”
“I kind of know what I want to do but I have no idea how to get there.”
Do any of these sound like you? If so, you might want to keep reading.
Through my work with the Career Hacking students in the Eazl community, I sometimes come across people who are confused about how to approach writing their resume because they aren’t sure what they want to do for work yet (definitely don’t spend time on your resume if your aren’t sure which direction you are moving towards!).
Some solve this problem with career coaching but we can’t all realistically afford this.
Some tend to go towards the career aptitude test solution, which I think are super lame and wouldn’t recommend. The answer of what you should be doing for a living lies within you, not at the end of an oversimplified 10 minute survey!
To get on the right career path, you need to find something to do that is a combination of these three pillars:
- Fulfilling a need that another person or entity has (what you do cannot be self-focused or all about your self-expression…people don’t pay others to do these things)
- Aligning with the skills you possess (be realistic and focus on skill building and strengthening)
- Something that you love to do
The best way to arrive at a career path that satisfies all three of these requirements, in my opinion, is with a series of self-exploratory exercises that get you thinking different and deeper about the macro (what is it that you want to do) and the micro (how you get there). You can think of this as self-coaching.
You can also refer to the Japanese Ikigai way of thinking, which breaks down the first column above into two separate elements. See the illustration of the affects of where you choose to focus below.
I put together this practice (some of the elements came from my positive psychology research) and I urge you to not underestimate their power based on their “softness” as you go through it:
Part #1: Best Possible Self Exercise
This exercise was created by the team at UC Berkeley. It’s all about creating habits of optimism that motivate you towards building your desired future. The exercise can also help you put your dreams and priorities into perspective AND it’s backed by science.
You can find the general instructions for the exercise here and you should put it on your calendar to complete the 15 minute exercise every day for two weeks before moving on to the second part of the exercise (bookmark this page to revisit then). This might sound intense to you but it will be helpful in creating a positive attitude about your career search and help you spot inconsistencies in your goals.
Here are some tips that I would recommend considering reading through before you complete the Best Possible Self exercise to get you in the right state of mind (you might want to make some notes):
- Be Pro-Social- considering how your career can help others in addition to yourself. Not only will this help satisfy the three columns, but it will also keep you from thinking in materialistic terms.
- Think about what others tell you you’re good at. What kind of advice do others seek from you? Your natural talents might not spell out what profession you should pursue specifically but it can point to skill you’ll want to make sure you’re utilizing at work.
- Focus on something that gives you meaning first and a paycheck second. You do need a paycheck but often the meaning is a path to the paycheck. Revisit the Ikigai image above to understand why putting salary first might not be a good idea if you want satisfaction from your work.
- Internal motivation trumps external achievement. Think about what you could be happy waking up every day and doing.
You can also include some dreams for your personal life if you’d like and I even encourage it. Often what we want in our personal lives can impact our career and vice versa.
By spending some time to think about your Best Possible Self, you’ll learn more about yourself and what you want from life as well as arrive at the information you need to outline actions that will help you reach your goals.
Part #2: Alignment Exercise
Go through what you’ve written in the Best Possible Self exercise. Highlight or underline the keywords that implicate big goals that require some type of action to initiate.
For example, if you wrote something like, “I’d like to be working in Denver rather than Tuscon to be closer to family,” you’ll highlight “Denver” or, “I see myself in a high level position in marketing,” you’ll highlight both “high level position” and “marketing”.
If you wrote something like, “My Best Possible Self is self-employed with at least 4 employees,” you’ll highlight “self-employed” and “4 employees”.
You get the idea.
Now, we’ll take these keywords -you can put them in list form is that helps you feel more organized- and create a mind map. Each keyword goal will be one hub on your mind map.
You can draw your mindmap by hand, use a drawing software on an iPad, or download a free Mind Mapping software on your computer. I recommend one of the second two options because it’s nice to be able to move things around and adjust without erasing or crossing things out.
Each one of the keywords you’ve highlighted will represent a hub or spoke on your Mindmap.
For example, below is one of the bullet points I included on my list.
Realistically, this probably won’t be something that I achieve for a couple years or more but I’m never going to get there if I don’t assess the steps in between.
When I insert this point into my Mindmap, I’ll need to consider all of the steps required to make the main hub (Become Bestselling Author) a reality. These elements on your map will tend to represent actions points and areas of skill development.
The progression of my mind map development will look something like this:
Essentially, you’ll go through the process of building in the steps in between the steps to make your career trajectory more clear. I’ll keep going with my mind map so that all the details are covered for every single bullet point I included in my Best Possible Self exercise.
Part #3: Goal Setting Exercise
Now we’re going to take what we’ve mapped and create a plan for making all of these hubs and spokes happen. You’ll need to create a realistic timeline, schedule events on your calendar, and stick to the due dates. If you have issues sticking to a schedule, you might want to complete some training in this area or find an accountability partner to help keep you on track.
1. Create a timeline
Big career changes are not impossible but the transition can take time. It’s important to be patient and stick to the work you’ve done in the first two parts of this exercise. This might mean staying at your current job until you complete some additional training or learn a new skill.
When I look at my mind map (the portion that I’ve shared with you above), I know that I can currently be working on all three secondary hubs: Continued Research & Education, Audience & Credibility Building, and Book Outline. There is nothing standing in between me and the ability to make progress on all three.
Beginning with Continued Research & Education, I’ll begin to connect actionables with dates in a text document.
Don’t set dates too far in the future. If you are able to complete an action now, set the date in the near future.
I’ll work on developing these dates more by assigning due dates for specific readings, details about applied practices types, etc.
2. Create a Calendar
Add each action with necessary details (including an exact time to sit down and work on your actionables) to your calendar app of choice. After seeing the dates you’ve set visually, you may see some changes you want to make. Keep your career planning calendar separate from your other to do items by keeping it under a different label.
This way, you’re making progress towards your career goal each week or every day. Every little step forward counts.
3. Be Accountable
Lately, I’ve been kicking the can down the road for a big project I’m working on, which includes me moving actions to later dates on my calendar constantly. Not only is this preventing me from making progress, it doesn’t feel very good to not uphold commitments I made to myself.
If you find yourself doing this, take a moment to assess whether the issue is that you haven’t been realistic with your due dates or you’re just procrastinating. If it’s that latter, you need to do something that spurs motivation.
Give yourself rewards for completing your actionable and don’t let yourself procrastinate. Set milestones to keep up your motivation.
I’m rewarding myself with the purchase of an expensive software I’d love to have if I’m able to commit and set show results from the project I mentioned.
From here, there is no magic. You just need to commit to your plan.
Successful people aren’t successful because they are special. They just find something they are interested in and never stop creating or moving towards their goal; that’s all that sets them apart and you are capable of doing the same.
I’d love to hear from you if you try the practice! Reach out to me here.
PART 1: How to Find Your Purpose/Passion & Build a Clear Career Path
PART 2: How Human Centricity Can Create a Cycle of Success
PART 3: Renew Your Love of Your Work by Achieving Flow