I get this question a lot from people who are in the process of trying to decide what they want their career path to be. They want to know what they should specialize in or what they should study or what certification they should pursue to get the career they want. However, there is no one answer that fits every situation. Instead, I believe that you need to adjust your mindset. Here are a few things that I suggest you do instead.
- First thing. You don’t need to figure out your career. You only need to figure out your next step. Most successful people don’t end up where they started. Oprah started as a television reporter. Steve Harvey started out as a comedian and now he hosts, owns and produces television shows. Most people asking this question usually have found themselves at a point where they feel like they have gone as far as they can go on this path and they are ready to transition. The question always seems to come because they are searching and nothing feels right to them. However, burdening yourself with trying to see the whole picture for the rest of your life is too much and can lead to you feeling overwhelmed. Instead just focus on your next step and have faith that once you build skills and grow, the long game will take care of itself.
- Second thing to note. If you are thinking it’s time for you to move on, then you are right. As soon as the idea comes into your mind, it’s a sign. Don’t push it down and ignore it. You may not know what it means or how to do it but acknowledge that it is real. Do not start judging the idea or yourself for having it.
- Third thing. Start dreaming. I know. You’re thinking to yourself, what? Dreaming?! My answer is yes. Dreaming. If you don’t know where you want to go how will you ever figure out how to get there? So start thinking about what you would like to spend your day doing. Note down what comes into your mind. Don’t screen the ideas or you’ll block the flow. If you need to, start identifying images online or in magazines that help you to ‘see’ more clearly what you want. If you are sophisticated about this, you might even print them out and stick them onto a surface you like, decorate them with inspiring messages and review them every day. Ta-da! You have a vision board.
- Fourth thing. What does it take to be where you want to be? Look at the examples that you know or can find, either around you or online. What skills? What knowledge? What relationships or connections do they have? What level of effort do they put out? What sacrifices have they made or are currently making? Don’t just look at the upside of being there. Think also about the drawbacks. Once you have as much of the whole picture as you can, then you decide.
- Fifth thing. You decide. You have to decide how much you are willing to give up to get to where you want to be. Change is never easy but it is always possible. Once we decide we want something and we are not stopping until we get it, then the sacrifices we make along the way always seem to be worth it. Not easy; just worth it. There will always be sacrifices to achieve something. If you stay where you are, you will sacrifice a chance to grow and become more. If you move forward, you sacrifice your comfort zone, maybe your free time and your sleep also. You may be trying to acquire more wealth and while that can bring you greater access to many things, you will have to learn new skills, behaviors and attitudes. In turn you will sacrifice what you have now and how you live now. So for every level we go up, we have to sacrifice something to get there. So you must decide how much you are willing to give, in order to get what you want.
- Sixth thing. Assess yourself. What do you have now that you can use to start on your journey? It’s never, ‘nothing’. You have something. Are you great with people? Great with numbers? Do you love a challenge and does it push you to work harder? Are you great with words? Are you incredible when it comes to analyzing things and digging down to the core issues? None of these answers are right or wrong. You just have to figure out what you are great at doing. Knowing this helps you figure out the launching pad for your next step. Ask yourself, how can you use what you have to move forward?
- Seventh thing. What do you need to learn? If there is a big gap between where you are now and where you want to be, you are going to have to learn a lot. This doesn’t mean that you have to head back to school. It just means that you have to open your mind. You may learn from experiences you have, other people’s experiences written in books. Or you may learn from mentors or videos on YouTube or podcasts you download. The point is that the opportunities for you to build your knowledge base and your skills are everywhere. You only have to be honest with yourself about what you do not know, what you need to learn and then be open to grabbing the learning opportunities when they come along. Or maybe chasing them down, if they don’t come along.
- Eighth thing. Work at it. Start where you are and start now. Start the learning. Start the doing. Start small. Identify one little thing you can do that will move you along the path. If your next step is to get promoted into management, managers need to be good with people and technically sound. Do you have your technical skills where they need to be? Are you working on building relationships with those around you? One day you could be leading those people around you? Do they know you well enough to trust you and support you when you get there? Do you know them well enough to be able to help them perform at a high level?
You have tons of opportunities to grow. You only need to decide what you want and outline a plan for getting there. You may not have all the answers, but you can still start on your journey to make your vision a reality. You can start small and you can start today. Before you know it, you’ll have some new habits and you will start to build momentum and that is where the magic starts to happen.
Just a few things I wanted to share.
Marjorie Wharton is a trainer, facilitator and coach who works with individuals and organizations to help them improve their performance. She is based at the Sagicor Cave Hill School of Business in Barbados. Follow her on twitter, Instagram and LinkedIn. For more of her writing visit https://marjoriewharton.live