Your Career: Finding Your Calling

With so much to cover in my initial category postings, I was only able to touch on each change or dilemma briefly. The intent of Wednesdays’ posts will be to elaborate on specific changes you may want to make, and how to move forward in them. I will offer general information and ideas to get you started or move you along, and each Wednesday will cover a different topic.
When it comes to taking charge of your career, if you find yourself a “jack of all trades, master of none,” or simply find yourself floundering, unsure of how to start, this post is for you.
Finding your niche, or “calling” can be a lot easier said than done. I know. It was my biggest hang-up when it came to changing careers. I didn’t want just another job. I wanted something that was meaningful to me, that I would enjoy, that I could see myself doing for years, that wouldn’t bore me. Definitely easier said than done!
Your criteria may be different. Perhaps you’re not as picky as I was (for your sake, I hope you aren’t!) and will have better luck finding something that “clicks” for you. Perhaps you have a few career paths that interest you and you’re just trying to narrow them down. Perhaps you’ve got some ideas floating around in your mind. Or perhaps you have no idea where to even start.
What’s Important to You?
Before even thinking about which career path to choose, you may want to take a few moments to think about what’s really important to you. What qualities are you looking for in a job? Are you looking for something with a consistent schedule, steady paycheck and great benefits? Are you looking for something that lets you think creatively, coming up with ideas that are “outside the box” on a regular basis? Do you want to work with people or independently? In a large corporation or mom-and-pop operation?
The questions are endless, but only you can really answer them. Only you will know what’s important to you, what will make you happy. If you relish working independently but find yourself in a job that requires you to be part of a team, would you be OK with that? If you need the security of a steady paycheck but find yourself drawn to a commission-only profession, how will you deal with that?
Taking the time to really evaluate these criteria, before you fall in love with a job that won’t work for you, will help ensure you find a career that is truly the best fit.
Getting Ideas
Once you know what’s important to you, it’s time to start exploring your options. Whether you have an idea of what you might want to do or not, getting a feel for what’s out there will help you be sure of your choice.
I found one interesting way to get ideas was to take personality tests. You answer a bunch of questions, and your answers are interpretted to give you an idea of which category your personality falls into. Included in the results are usually famous people who had your personality type and some career ideas that may appeal to you. Using these tests as a starting point may inspire you and lead you into a direction you hadn’t even considered. Below are some online tests to get you started.
There are other ways to brainstorm career ideas, too. Think about hobbies or interests you have and visit online job search sites, such as CareerBuilder or Monster. Type your hobby or interest in the keyword search box and see what comes up. The jobs don’t even have to be local; you’re just brainstorming here. Or you can do a Google search with your hobby or interest and “job” or “career” to see what comes up.
Another option is mind-mapping. Take a blank piece of paper. In the middle of the paper write a hobby, interest, or job characteristic that’s important to you. Circle it. Now draw a line from that circle and write a word that relates to it in some way. It can be a job idea or just another interest, job characteristic or random thought. Circle that, too. Continue to branch off the circles, both the original circles and the ones you create as you go. See where your mind takes you. You might be surprised at the chain of ideas!
Stay True to Yourself
While the ultimate choice for me ended up being “obvious” — and was in the back of my mind the whole time — I think part of the reason I didn’t pursue it earlier was because I knew it wasn’t an easy path. There would be no 9-5 job for me. There would be no guaranteed paycheck or benefits. I would have to constantly use my brain, my creativity, to push myself forward. And what about writer’s block?
But, honestly, the more I thought about it, the more I realized that the “different” job — the difficult, challenging and thought-provoking job that didn’t fit the definition of “normal” — was the right one for me. I relished the challenge, and regular jobs bored me. The “normal” job had never been the best choice for me. And I think that’s an important thing to keep in mind. To find the job that’s truly right for you, you need to do some soul-searching. You need to think about what you enjoy doing, what challenges you, what gets you excited, what stirs your blood. It’s about bringing together what’s important to you and what’s interesting to you. Even if the path to get there won’t be easy, if it’s something that’s meaningful for you, the end result will be more than worth it.
For some of you, the path will be easier. The job you decide on will have a set training plan, a wide variety of jobs available, and excellent pay and benefits. Congrats if your calling falls into that category! But if what you’re thinking about doesn’t fall into that category, don’t try to make something else fit. Even if the path is a little rockier, the experience will be more meaningful for you if you stay true to yourself instead of convincing yourself that something else could be what you want to do.
It may take a while to discover the right career for you. You may have a few false starts. But stick with it. The process will lead you to the right choice.
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