If you’re wondering how to find the right career, it isn’t as complicated as you might think. In fact, it just involves a bit of introspection, a bit of research, and a willingness to change a couple beliefs. Here’s how…
I was listening to a podcast yesterday and I heard something that resonated with me. The speaker mentioned that she was getting off a plane after returning from Las Vegas on a Sunday and she heard people complaining about going back to work on Monday.
It didn’t make sense to her why so many people would do something they clearly didn’t enjoy. I used to feel the same way. In some roles I dreaded Mondays so much I would get depressed every Sunday afternoon.
I actually look forward to Mondays now. I’m here to tell you that you can too. So, if you don’t look forward to Mondays, here is how to find the right career for you.
Step #1: Identify your interests
Step #2: Find people who share your interests
Step #3: Get philosophical
Step #4: Experiment
Step #5: If all else fails, take an inventory
How to find the right career – Step #1: Identify your interests
I know that this advice is so obvious as to sound like a cliché, but step #1 in finding the right career really is creating a list of your interests. If you’re like me, you probably have lots of interests but no particular passion. –That’s okay.
Just make a list of the things that you are interested in. For example, my list includes:
And a bunch of other things…
Now the natural next step is to think about your skills and which of your interests can be profitable.
This is highly practical, but not necessarily going to get you to the place of living your dream life. I would put it this way, this approach can get you 80% of the way to living your dream career, but it rarely will get you all the way there.
Why? Let me take an example like Mindfulness Meditation from my list above. To be honest, I’m not a particularly skilled meditator (if there is such a thing) and most people would tell you that you can’t make much (if any) money in the meditation business.
So, the tendency would be to check it off the list. But what if I’m really, really interested in Mindfulness Meditation? What if my bookshelves at home are filled with books about it? What if I talk to all my friends about it?
Should I write it off? The obvious answer from a career safety standpoint is yes.
Here is what you should do instead:
How to find the right career – Step #2: Find people who share your interests
Across the world of mindfulness meditation, some people are making money. John Kabat-Zinn and Deepak Chopra are making fortunes, but there are also meditation instructors, life coaches, and lots of other people making a living.
What you need to do is find the people who make up this community. One way to do this is by attending an industry conference. Following my Mindfulness Meditation example, there are probably at least a few conferences for people in the industry.
I don’t mean events where you can learn Mindfulness Meditation, but rather where you can go and hear about the latest and greatest tools & techniques. These events will have lots of people in the space, and you will have the opportunity to meet a number of people who have figured out how to make a living at this (and there will be more than a couple starving dreamers).
Alternatively, if attending events isn’t in the budget, a quick LinkedIn search can be quite revealing. I found 65,183 results when I searched for Mindfulness Meditation. Take a moment and search for whatever interests you, you will find thousands of people doing it in one capacity or another.
Then simply reach out via LinkedIn (for tips on how to improve your LinkedIn profile so you get a response see Keys to a Great LinkedIn Profile (Part 1)). Scheduling the time to chat with these individuals will surely put you on the path towards the right career.
How to find the right career – Step #3: Get Philosophical
What do I mean by get philosophical? Well, chances are whatever really interests you in life doesn’t pay quite as well as a more traditional path unless you get entrepreneurial and really hit it out of the park.
When I ask my clients about the importance of income as they contemplate their career change, it is a prominent factor for nearly all. Frankly, very few can afford to give up their current level of compensation to maintain their current lifestyles.
This is where getting philosophical comes in. You may have to give up some of your current spending to find the right career. Now, I can tell you that income doesn’t correlate with happiness (see How to be happier than a billionaire), but the truth is that even if you believe this intellectually, it will be very hard to embrace emotionally.
This is the time to do a gut check, see if you are willing to make the tradeoffs that come with your new career interest, and if so, get ready to experiment…
How to find the right career – Step #4: Experiment
Once you’ve spoken to people in your area of interest, done your homework and decided you are ready to make the necessary compromises, then it becomes time to experiment. Most people are scared of wasting a year in the wrong role, as if the only path to career success is a linear one.
I would argue that there is one thing worse than experimenting with something for a year (or less) and then leaving, and that is staying with something you don’t like for many years or perhaps decades.
So experiment a bit with whatever you are considering doing (see Career coaching: Making a choice in your career). If you can experiment in a small way, for example teaching an evening class or doing some work in your free time, then great.
If not, gather as much information as you can about the area you are interested in and give yourself permission to experiment with it for a year. In most cases you will know if it is a fit or not pretty quickly and can change course if that is what’s best for you.
The people you met in your field of interest can be great sources of ideas and inspiration, and some may be willing to hire you to give you experience in this new field.
How to find the right career – Step #5: If all else fails, take an inventory
I mention this last because chances are you already have a list of interests from Step #1 above. –And really, do you want to cloud your intuition with results from an inventory?
However, from time to time I have a career coaching client say something to the effect of, “I want to make sure I look at ALL the options, even the ones I’m not aware of.”
In this case I like to use a tool called CareerLeader to help clients find the right career. This assessment was developed at Harvard Business School and explores your skills, interests and personal style to recommend certain careers.
I find that this can frequently be good for getting all the options on the table and advancing the discussion around personal interests.
Once you’ve identified potential careers in this manner, it’s time to start meeting people in the industry following Step #2 above.
If you’re wondering how to find the right career, hopefully this has provided some insight. Most people tend to think they have to find the right career instantly from their first attempt. In fact, most careers involve a bit more dabbling and experimentation.
So go for it, meet some people, explore your career interests and try something new. –And if I can help you in the process, please let me know.