When you were young, you were asked what you wanted to be when you grew up. After hearing that question over and over, you came to believe that you should make a career decision and stick with it for life if you want to be a success, even though you may have to change careers three or more times in your lifetime.
A better question to ask yourself is: What do you want to try next?
We don’t live in a world where we get to make one career decision and ride it out for the rest of our lives. Many of us wouldn’t want to do that anyway. We will encounter pivot points in our lives, chances to change direction, and we will have to negotiate those as they come. We won’t stay the same, and the world won’t either.
In my lifetime I’ve been employed as a waitress, short-order cook, veterinary assistant at a horse racing track, newspaper reporter and editor. I could go on, and I’m just middle-aged. Who knows what technology will allow me to become.
We need to change the questions we ask ourselves about our careers to get better answers for ourselves when we’re stuck.
Example: A person comes to me tortured about what career to choose after they decide they’re not suited for teaching fifth grade. They’ve got it narrowed down to three things. Let’s say it’s marketing, teaching English abroad and going back to graduate school to become a doctor.
Looking at those three options and ask yourself: What do you want to be? So much pressure. You are going to become another entity, and you better like it and be good at it, because you’re making this one decision for the rest of your life.
When you ask yourself what you want to try next, you’re giving yourself a break. There are all kinds of concepts folded into that question: What phase of life are you in? How much adventure are you up for? How much schooling? What would you like to say you tried, just because it sounds fun? What if failure was an option (it always is)?
Maybe our theoretical career changer realizes he is young and unattached and he’d love to try living in another country for a year. Maybe he realizes it’s the perfect time for an adventure. He could try teaching English as a Second Language as a volunteer at the community center down the street to see if he likes it before packing his bags. Or before volunteering he could just sit in on some classes for a day. There are so many ways to test your interests.
What should you do with your life? What a loaded question. It presumes that life is a setup, that we arrange things just so and then execute our vision. It assumes that the world isn’t a swirling mass of chaos and is just a static “thing.”
It also presumes that you are one thing, and all your life you will be one thing. We’re so much more than that, and honestly, the world won’t let us be one thing anymore. Most of us need to be able to read our environment for opportunities and know ourselves well enough to take a leap.
That’s where career coaching can come in. Sometimes you just need the confidence to take the next step in your career, or you need some space to talk about your options. And then you’re on your way.
Want to talk more about your career pivot points? Call me at 240-277-6224 or email me at firstname.lastname@example.org