Picking a career path seemed so simple as a child. You proudly told everyone you wanted to be a doctor or a dolphin trainer like it was as simple as choosing your favorite toy. Then you grew up and realized careers seem a lot less like paths and more like roller coasters. They’re full of highs and lows with unexpected changes and moments where you question it all. So how do you find THE career that’ll fit into your life and make the roller coaster worth it?
The answer seems simple at first. The best career is one that meshes with both your professional and personal aspirations. It’ll live at the intersection between what you’re good at, what companies/the world needs, and what you enjoy. And on top of that, it’ll let you live the life you want. The tricky part is figuring out what exactly are your professional and personal aspirations and how much of a role they should play in your decision.
What are your professional aspirations?
This can seem like quite the big question to ask yourself. When thinking of your answer try breaking it down into what matters to you in terms of skills, passion, environment, and values.
- Skills: What are your strengths and weaknesses? What personal and technical skills do you have? What’s your degree in? Taking an inventory of your skills can help you assess what combination of things you can bring to a career.
- Passion: What do you love doing? What do you find most interesting? What types of activities leave you feeling energized and excited for more? Think of this in context of both work and life to get a sense of what you need out of a career to be engaged.
- Environment: What type of work environment are you looking for? This can cover so many aspects of work: culture, opportunity for growth, stability, leadership potential, benefits, etc. Take the time to write down what your ideal work environment looks like for you.
- Values: What values are important to you in your career? Are you someone who is mission-driven and needs to do good in the world? Do you value the highest salary no matter what type of company it is? Thinking through these types of questions can help you refocus on different industries or types of roles.
What are your personal aspirations?
Now that the professional aspirations are out of the way, it’s time for personal. After all, you still have a life outside of the office that’s equally as important as your career path.
- Location: Where do you want to live? Too often people let the job dictate the answer, but cities can affect your overall life satisfaction. How close do you want to be in family? How easily do you want to be able to travel? What type of weather affects you?
- Salary/Benefits: What do you need out of work to lead the life you want? For instance, just how important is salary? What type of healthcare coverage do you need? What other work perks are part of your ideal career?
- Family: If you already have a family, you’re probably thinking of this. But even if you’re years away, start taking it into consideration. What flexibility do you want out of work? What type of maternity/paternity leave? What areas have the best schools?
After you start jotting down your answers, start deciding what’s non-negotiable to you and what’s flexible. The more you answer and rank, the clearer the picture will be of what career path works best for you. There’s no 100% correct answer. You may land on a career right out of school that fits into your life like a dream. You may do a complete 180 halfway through your career. Just remember to enjoy the roller coaster of your career!