By William Cowie
“I Need A Job”
That’s a phrase most of us – if not all – have said at some point in our lives. We need to eat, have a roof over our heads and provide for our families. A job is a short term solution to our need to pay the bills and eat. In contrast, a career is the pursuit of a lifelong ambition or the course of progression towards lifelong goals.
Our careers, and our jobs, can impact many areas of our lives: how we think of ourselves, how other people see us, our income, our health, our happiness, even our lifespan!
Choosing a career path that suits you can be one of the major, defining decisions of your life!
You can have a career without ever having a job. However, jobs can be stepping stones in our careers, an opportunity to learn skills and earn experience. A job may even be the end goal of our career. If we have the luxury of time, before we dive straight into a new job, perhaps we should take a moment to step back and consider, “Where do I want to go with my career?”. Researching careers and seeking career advice can give your job hunt a whole new purpose – and can put you on a career path that makes you happy and successful!
Choosing A Career Path? Start By Knowing What You Want!
Most of us can easily identify things we don’t want to do, but struggle to define what we really want. This is the toughest part of a career choice that suits you. Do you actually know what you want?
What are your passions?
Finding something you’re passionate about is the first step in choosing a career to suit you. Think back on jobs you’ve done, volunteer work you’ve done, clubs you’ve joined, sports you’ve played, instruments you’ve played. Ask yourself questions like these:
• What makes you smile?
• What makes you happy?
• What leaves you feeling satisfied at the end of the day?
• What experiences have touched your heart?
• What made your heart race with excitement?
You’ll find something in your life – something you love – that you can develop into a career. You’re always going to have bad days along with the good, but find work you like to do and you’ll skew the odds a long ways towards the good!
When making a career choice, research your options
Don’t just look at job hire boards – you can have a career without ever having a job. Take your passion, and find out what career path opportunities are available to you.
Research your heroes and the people you most admire – how did they get where they are? If you meet someone with a career choice that interests you, ask them about it. See something cool on TV or in the newspaper? Learn more. Seek career advice, be informed when you’re making a career choice, and it’ll help you choose your career path that much quicker.
Know yourself – your strengths AND your weaknesses
You need to know your own strengths, and more importantly, weaknesses, in order to succeed. Be honest with yourself in your self-reflection. Better to admit a weakness now, and work to turn it into a strength, rather than fail because of it later. Factor in your skills and experience as well – they’re absolutely relevant in your decision making. Ask yourself questions like:
• What am I good at and what skills do I have?
• What qualifications do I have?
• Do I like working with people?
• Do I hate working with people?
• Do I love competition?
• Do I excel under stressful conditions?
If you don’t have the skills, abilities, qualifications and experience you need, don’t worry – you’ve just found your new set of goals to work towards, in order to get to the next stage of your career choice.
What kind of lifestyle suits you?
Career can dictate your lifestyle or your lifestyle can dictate your career. If your ultimate goal is to be the CEO of a company you particularly admire, you’ll probably have to expect long hours and high stress at times. Pursue your passion to be a professional comedian and you’ll be performing at times that suit your audience: afternoons, nights and on weekends. Many people in professional services industries will probably find they will need to live in major metropolitan areas to get work. Ask yourself things like:
• Where do you want to live?
• Do you want to work 9-to-5?
• Can you be away from home for extended periods?
• Do you love to travel?
• Do you like physical work?
Your passions may trump your desired lifestyle – many of us would choose to sleep in every day if we could, but success in our career path drives us to go to work every morning. Your lifestyle needs can change over time too – a travel-centric career might have suited you when you were single, but now that you’re married with children, that travel can become a strain on your relationship with your family. It might be time to take your career in a new direction – change jobs or change the way you work – to accommodate your needs.
Final career advice – the is no ‘one’ career path
There is no such thing as a perfect career choice, just a career path that is perfect for you.
When you see a career opportunity, take it
Don’t be afraid to pursue opportunities when you see them. That might mean you change jobs, take on more training & study, move, travel, seek career advice when you need it, or pursue your passions in the face of adversity. As Mark Twain said:
“Life is short, break the rules, forgive quickly, kiss slowly, love truly, laugh uncontrollably, and never regret anything that made you smile. Twenty years from now you will be more disappointed by the things you didn’t do than by the ones you did. So throw off the bowlines. Sail away from the safe harbor. Catch the trade winds in your sails. Explore. Dream. Discover.”
You can pursue many career paths, choices and passions over a lifetime
You aren’t trapped in one career path for ever – you can change and pursue many careers over your life time. You may have heard of the ‘10,000 hours’ principle – it takes 10,000 hours of deliberate practice to become an expert. There are 8,765 hours in a year and a person with a full time job works nearly 2,000 hours per year. That means if you apply yourself to your work, constantly strive for improvement, evaluate your own performance and build on the facets you’re not yet good at, you can be an expert in a field in less than five years.
In a working life, (18-85yrs) you could become an expert in nearly 10 careers – more if you practice longer hours. Here’s a cool infographic The 10,000 Hours Rule.
Try and keep on trying throughout your career
Don’t give up! Few of us are lucky enough to succeed in everything on our first try. You could still have those “I need a job” moments. Learn from your mistakes, find out why you failed, change jobs if you need to, and try again until you DO succeed.
Good luck with choosing your career!
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