In today’s world we don’t just see work as a means to obtain money; we expect to find meaning too. It’s a pretty big ask and it leads many of us to have a mid-life career crises, often on a blustery Sunday evening or after a birthday with a zero on the end of it. But all is not lost so to help us on the quest for fulfilling work here are 7 useful ideas for us to remember:
1. Being puzzled about your career choice is totally ‘normal’
There are lots of different careers out there to choose. The latest estimates suggest there are half a million different jobs to choose from. This has risen dramatically in the last decade alone and this overwhelming choice leads us to analysis paralysis, or what psychologists like to call, the paradox of choice. For a while now experts have been predicting that it will be fairly normal to have 5-7 different careers in any one lifetime, so don’t despair if you don’t get it right first time, at least you can rest assured that your not alone in these conundrums.
2. Know yourself
For 99% of us knowing what we want to do doesn’t come to us spontaneously. Most of us don’t have a calling or a moment of epiphany. That’s not to say we don’t have preferences, but we often just don’t know them clearly enough. This puts us in a sticky position as not having a plan quickly puts us at the mercy of others who do have one.
Lots of people don’t know what their talents are because they’ve not come across them yet. They are often buried deep within you, you have to go looking for them, but sometimes we catch little glimpses of them and this helps us to figure out what we want we do in life. In order to decide what is going to make us happy we need to learn to focus our mind on picking up on their faint noises. But first we need to…
3. Forget about money for a while
To pick up on our preferences, we need to start by parking any concerns about money for a while. You see money scratches most of our other itches so unfortunately it’s all too easy for our ego to wade in and convince us that what we really want to do is what earns us the most cash. And that’s not a bad thing and will hopefully come in time if we become a master at what we love, but first we have to figure our what we want to master.
- Start by writing down everything you’ve ever enjoyed doing and making, including seemingly mundane everyday tasks.
- Then, write down everything you absolutely know you don’t like doing.
- Next, try to analyse what the common themes are.
For example if you love to rearrange living room furniture, pack the groceries away and decorate the Christmas tree then you may want a creative role that gives you a sense of completion such as visual merchandising or UI/UX design.
When Michelangelo created the statue of David he said the process was about removing the bits of marble that weren’t David. Removing the bits of us that we don’t enjoy is a good way to figure out what we do want.
4. Think a lot
I’m 31 now but I was once an arrogant 16 year old. And it was around this age that people started asking me the question “what do you want to do with your life?”. There’s only one fairly big problem with this, which is humans are pretty bad at predicting what our future selves will actually want to be doing.
So in order to avoid spending your life trapped in a career chosen by your 16 year old self who did his/her best to predict what would make future you happy, you need to get some headspace. You shouldn’t feel guilty or self-indulgent to spend lots of time thinking about what you want to do with your life. It’s one decision that will impact all areas of your life for many years to come so it’s worth sweating over.
5. Try something
We need data points to make a logical decision about what we’d like to do and most of us just don’t have enough experience. 16 year old me wanted to do pretty much anything apart from wash dishes so my lack of data points on what I did enjoy doing didn’t really help me much. We can and should investigate our futures by interning, learning and starting things in our own time. In the startup world this is referred to as hustle and it’s pretty important.
6. Reflect on what makes people unhappy
Every business is an attempt to solve someone’s problem. The bigger and more urgent the problem, the bigger the opportunity. Try to find the link between what you enjoy doing (passion) with a problem that people really need solving (opportunity). It’s easy to imagine that every good idea has been tried and tested, but as a human race we’re unhappy enough with our own lives for many more years of invention and creativity to prosper.
7. Be confident
Sometimes the difference between success and failure is nothing less than the courage to give it a go. We have to imagine our future-selves in a great new position before it ever becomes a reality. Many of the top positions are allocated to people who simply had the guts to ask for them. So be confident that you can add value to any business, solve any tough problem and that ultimately you will succeed, even if it takes a few tries first.
Finally, Michelangelo also said the problem with human beings isn’t that we aim too high and we fail, it’s we aim too low and succeed. So aim high, don’t be afraid to try things and don’t settle.
If you agree with some of the points above or would like to add any in, I’d love to hear from you.