What are your plans after graduation?
Me: I’m sorry—come again?
I cringed every single time this question came up in the conversation. I was fresh out of high school, juggling three part-time jobs (I know), and was still unsure about the whole college thing. Isn’t it wild how ingrained in us this pressure is? From the moment we start school, we’re pressured into knowing what we want to be when we grow up. But then when we’ve finally “grown up,” we realize there are still so many questions: What kind of apartment do I rent? Where should I live? How do I land the “dream job?”
The gap between our teens and 30s is this awkward, yet beautiful time of self-discovery called our 20s. It’s during this time that we take ambitious strides to find ourselves, learn more about our personalities (hello, enneagram!), and figure out what we want to do for the rest of our lives. While it can be scary, it’s these years where we set the tone for who we want to become and what goals we plan to set for our futures.
While I still didn’t know what types of roles I wanted to land within a company, I decided to start submitting my application everywhere until something happened. I landed my first corporate job as a temp intern for a human resources department. During these three months, I learned more about myself than in any classroom setting.
Sometimes, when we step into roles we may not necessarily be excited about, we have to ask ourselves if they’re the right fit or benefitting us in any way towards the end goal. Here are a few questions I considered throughout my career that have helped me to navigate opportunities and build my self-confidence as a professional in any field:
1. Do my abilities/talents match up to this career path?
It’s one thing for me to enjoy baking as a hobby, but it’s another thing to actually have the talent to whip up homemade Nutella crepes in the kitchen. We all have hobbies we enjoy and talents we’re phenomenal at. And when we really have a knack for something, we gain a reputation for those things.
As we apply for jobs, it’s important to ask ourselves this question so we can make sure we’re using our time wisely and our talents to the best of our abilities. When we’re good at something, it deserves to be compensated! In answering this question, we can also figure out if our current job is right. Every career opportunity teaches us what we like and what we don’t like. And that’s OK! In deciphering our career needs and wants, we’re one step closer to finding our right fit.
2. Does this career path align with my passions/end goals?
When given tasks align with our passions, we not only have the excitement to get things accomplished, but we gain so much from our roles through our daily tasks. Each task that is using up our gifts is allowing us to get better at those skills. It’s also empowering us to become the prime expert in our field. The last thing we want to do is spend time at a job that doesn’t use us at our maximum potential. It not only can feel like a waste of time, but it can leave us feeling very depleted.
3. Is this career path giving me life or draining me out?
Stepping into our job roles should affirm us as professionals—not burn us out! There’s a difference between being a little stressed from the busyness of life (we’ve all been there) and being overwhelmingly stressed by our jobs to the point of destruction.
When we find fulfillment in our job or career, it gives us the strength to overcome the busy days that come our way. But if a job is pushing us past our limit of stress and we don’t find what we are doing to be enjoyable, then it may be time to look for a new gig. If we’re not in a place to quit our jobs or take a pay-cut, start taking the initial steps to applying for new positions—whether within the same company or elsewhere.
We can also reach out to past mentors, past coworkers, and connections to help us find that new job so we can move on to the next thing. In the middle of waiting for a new gig, we can find or create parts of our current job that we actually love. If it’s our team, if it’s a particular task, or if it’s our interactions with the people we’re serving, we can use our time to focus on those things and offer our time to fully engage with the parts of our jobs that are actually life giving. No job experience is a wasted one—there’s always something to learn!
4. Does this career path allow me to serve my dream audience or client really well?
We all need to map out our dream client! What is their name? Where do they hang? What can we do for them? When we identify our dream client, it can help us figure out what roles or specific career paths we should be looking to join. Having that person in mind motivates us and helps us to dream big in the right direction.
Does the current position we hold empower us to serve those people really well? If not, we should look for innovative ways to connect what we do with the dream client. And when we apply for new jobs in the future, we can look out for the roles and job opportunities that interact the most with our ideal audience, too.
5. Do I feel an overall balance in my life with this career path choice?
When we find that everything in our life is falling into place with this career path, it’s a great sign that this may be the right fit. The right career path can make or break our relationships, our dreams, and even our sleeping patterns. Finding that healthy balance helps us to feel centered and at peace within our career. Choose Wonder Over Worry by Amber Rae is a helpful resource that walks through the difference between “getting ahead” and “coming alive” within your career.
Being ambitious, I would oftentimes put myself in situations where I’d spread myself too thin. I’d overcommit in both my professional and personal lives, and this created so much unnecessary tension for me. I was stressed, gaining unhealthy weight, and sucking at my relationships. But when I found the sweet spot within my career—having one singular job that I could focus all my energy on—it allowed me to be fully present as a girlfriend, friend, and daughter.
Do you feel stuck in your current career? Share with us your story in the comments below!