In recent times, my Facebook timeline was flooded with one career quiz question: What career should you actually have? All of us were solving for the quiz and increasingly getting different career options as a result- something we shared with our friends and encouraged them to follow suit. Of course the sharing was more common, if we liked what we got as a career result. As a professional in my 30s, ‘what career should you actually have’ reeks of an allegation. It somehow tells me, that the career I do really have, in this moment, is somehow not enough. Or, sad as it may be, I also have to solve a small quiz, which will predict my happiness better than I have managed on my own. There’s also a vicarious, fun element in it. It invokes vanity and wistfulness. That’s already a great psychological topic to get into, but today, I wanted to delve more deeply into the practical elements of our career choices.
Step wise guide into discovering what career should you actually have?
In this guide we will cover the following: 1) Myths involving finding your dream career 2) How to identify what career should you actually have 3) How to own the career you should actually have
At the end of it, I hope, together we are able to reflect on the choices we make and what really makes us happy professionally. This is an indicative guide and we do not judge choices or preferences you may have. It’s in fact a way to accept our professional preferences and find happiness in them. It’s always critical to recall that we spend half our lives working. So, take this post as a personal investment with that thought in mind.
1) Myths involving what career should you actually have
#Myth 1: I am too old now
There are plenty of examples to debunk this myth. But I’d like to share a particularly recent and interesting one with you. The story of George Takei, whose career really expanded at 70, all the constraints withstanding. Trust me, this is magical for your career inspiration, especially if you had these stereotypical concerns: I am too old, I have too many family obligations, I won’t be accepted. All these and more. Get out of your comfort zone, you will realize opportunities are plenty!
I thought we lived in a world that is very constrained, and we discovered that there are opportunities for all of us (It Got Better Featuring, George Takei )
#Myth 2: I have no time
We know it’s a lie we like telling ourselves. It’s not about having more or less time, it is about how we prioritize. And then, there’s nothing wrong with that. There is a possibility that you are in fact already in a dream job- or at least a job that you feel content with. No harm in that. Not having time is usually not the best excuse though. All of us, Mark Zuckerberg included get 24 hours.
#Myth 3: No career can make me fully happy
Sorry, but did you check in with your therapist recently? There’s no shame in that. A profession has a huge potential in making you happy. If you feel that the career can’t give you a sense of purpose or meaning in life, you need to push yourself to be more ambitious.
2) How to identify what career should you actually have
The quiz may have seemed childish to some, and maybe you didn’t pay much attention to it as a senior or mid level professional. But it does unearth some interesting patterns. I went through a few in detail:
- Question 1: What would you spend your tax returns on– This is something we spoke of before: what does your dream job mean. It is essentially never about the real job title (those can be manufactured) but more about what a career brings to you- the ability to own books, everything from the Apple Store or a yacht? These are questions that will help you analyze things beyond being stuck in a job title trap. You need a career. And that which fulfills your prioritized ‘desires’.
- Question 2: What would you bring on a desert island– This goes beyond your desires onto determining the most ‘essential’ things in life that keep you engaged. Well, it varies from your buddy to a smartphone. But helps me think about my deep seated preferences. And no, I do not need to share what I selected with anyone 😉 but self analysis never hurt anyone! This is also a reminder that, you will potentially always need to ‘pick’ the single most important aspect. We would love to have it all, but the ability of making choices is an integral part of our lives as senior professionals.
- Question 3: Who is your dream dinner guest- Which people would you like to surround yourself with? It is often said that, we are a sum total of the 5 people we spend most of our time with. It may be just a cliche, but I tend to believe in it. If we do not like or connect with our co-workers or bosses, the likelihood of us being charged up and happy at work is low. There’s no such rule that colleagues should turn into friends, but personally, I believe my office crowd needs to be inspiring enough for me to think that I can dine with them at any point.
- Question 4: What describes you? Essentially this question intrigued me the most. Because, it is true that you’re only what you see in the mirror. Our wants and personality types need to match with the career we are in. I can say that safely because I started my career as a software engineer which lasted a year. On the other hand, I have been writing everyday since I was 14. Things that we enjoy and find a true personality match with tend to stay with us longer and are far more sustainable.
- Question 5: What do you look for in a workplace? For job seekers, this is by far the most critical question. Most workplaces tend to have reputations that precede them. Some companies talk about their work-culture openly, while others have Glassdoor. Many of us use these work culture inputs in our final decision making process. Do you see yourself wearing shorts and a sweatshirt, or a corporate suit? Not to say the dress is what makes all the difference, but the overall culture and the philosophy most definitely does. You may not already know this, but it is something that’s most worthwhile to check and ask your future employer or even a headhunter/ executive recruiter that suggests a position to you. Why suffer in agony and settle when you can find a better match?
3) How to own the career you should actually have
This is not easy, and I will share a personal story. I’ve worked for 8 years now. The list of the job-titles I held during this time period: 1) Software Engineer 6 months 2) Wireless Engineer 7 months 3) Teaching assistant (while studying) 5 months 4) NGO senior research associate 6 months 5) Consultant…Team leader 5.5 years 6) Intern (while studying again) 9 months 7) Chief Editor (now).
It hasn’t been easy-peasy and it will never be. I have gone through multiple job titles, 3 university degrees, worked in organizations with 10,000 to 100 employees, from NGO jobs to consulting to online start-ups. The only consistent thing in this process has been to not ‘settle’ for things but look forward to something new optimistically. There are plenty of ways to go about this. In the last months, we have collected some helpful insights on this platform, I am going to share a few career resources here:
- How to brand yourself as an expert in your current job (assumption: you are happy)
- How to be seen as a management job potential in your current job (assumption: growing within your current organization is your dream)
- How to prepare yourself for a mid-career break (assumption: you’re going to try something new)
- How to find a job while being employed or on a holiday (assumption: you’re trying to seek new career opportunities)
- How to use social media to make a personal brand and be seen as an expert outside (assumption: helpful for both inside/ outside opportunities)
- Management jobs for senior professionals on Experteer- You can sign up for free, and find careers depending on a variety of factors including your location, job title, salary etc. You can also benchmark your salary.
4) Bonus input: What did the quiz results on “what career should you actually have” show me?
Doesn’t look too bad, at least till I find new ideas again ! What’s yours – check here ? 🙂