A lack of career clarity is a common struggle for professionals across all industries — for some people, the question, "What do I want to do with my life?" lingers well past college. Whether you're searching for your first professional position or considering a mid-career job change, these tips can help you discover the right path.
Make a Like/Dislike List
Organize your job-related thoughts and feelings with a list of likes and dislikes about your current and past positions. The list might include items such as leading a team, client communication and work that has meaning. Once you have two columns, rank the lists by priority. Combined, the top items can provide useful career clarity. If you love working independently and dislike workplace obligations such as meetings and team lunches, for example, you might be happier in a freelance or consulting position.
Expand Your Network
People are a great resource for finding career clarity. As you plan networking events for the month, find ways to branch out from typical industry events. Attend chamber of commerce mixers or young professional’s events to meet people from a variety of fields. Identify an industry that piques your curiosity, and go to a professional association's mixer. At each event, make a point to talk with as many people as possible — in the process, you can build fascinating new contacts and learn about potential career paths.
When you're stuck in a job that doesn't feel right, it can be hard to find career clarity at work. Volunteering gives you the chance to explore other avenues in a fulfilling, low-risk way. Choose your positions strategically — if you've always been interested in graphic design, offer to make a poster for a community theater's upcoming show. If you're interested in jobs that require large-scale event planning, ask to be on the committee for a fundraising gala. As you participate, it should become clear whether or not the work is a good fit, providing clarity for a potential job change.
Try New Things
Sometimes, a lack of career clarity comes from limited experience. If you have no idea what you want to do with your life, the best option is to start exploring. Start with anything that sounds interesting: take a dance class, attend a comic book convention or start training for a triathlon. Try to find activities that expose you to new people and places. If you spent your college years in an engineering lab, for example, join a hiking group. The broader your horizons, the more likely you are to find the thing that strikes your passion and inspires a career shift.
Finding career clarity might seem like an impossible, elusive concept, but it is achievable for every professional. With the right combination of openness and conscious action, you can find a fulfilling, satisfying career path.
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