“What should I do with my life?” is a really good question and one that has probably been asked by most people at some point in their lives. While most find work, many struggle to find meaningful work they enjoy. In fact, the majority of us dislike our work (depending on what survey you read), and that sucks because we spend most of our time working.
Is it possible for you to avoid the trap of getting stuck in a job you don’t like? Yes and I’ll try and help you avoid that trap. In fact, I’ll help you find a career you love.
Here’s what I want for you: Avoid the pain of being stuck doing work you hate and find the pleasure of doing work you truly enjoy.
What does it mean to have a career I love?
There’s a lot of talk about finding your purpose and that’s great for people who can actually find it. If you’ve found yours, congrats. If you haven’t, don’t spend a ton of time looking for it. Instead, find work you consider to be meaningful and important. Once you’ve done that, work hard and get good at it. When you do that, purpose will follow and you’ll love what you do.
How should I approach finding a career I love?
Don’t take a siloed approach to thinking about your career. Instead, think about integrating your career with every other aspect of your life such as your family, friends, social life, and hobbies. Because we spend so much time working and/or thinking about working, it will become part of your identity and affect other aspects of your life.
When should I think about this?
Now. Wherever you’re at, start thinking hard about this.
- Pre-College: College can cost a lot. If you’ll earn more with a specific degree, go get that degree. If you’re not sure what you want to do, figure out if investing your time and money in a degree program will get you the return you’re hoping for.
- Early career: Don’t fall into the trap of taking a job simply for the money. All too often, when we start earning a decent living, we start accumulating debt and expenses. All of the sudden, you’re 30 years old with student loan payments, a car payment, expensive housing costs, potentially a significant other, and/or kids, and you’re stuck needing a paycheck to pay for all of it. This is a leading cause for people hating their jobs.
- Later in life: It’s never too late to find meaningful work you love. History is full of people who found careers they love later in life from Ray Kroc (McDonalds) to Julia Child (chef) to Stan Lee (comics).
Three Areas to Focus
- Figure out where you are right now: your current situation.
- Figure out where you want to go: what you want your life and career to look like.
- Figure out how to get there: what will it take, then develop a plan.
The more options you have, the better. More resources means more options. Determine how to maximize your existing resources, then figure out how to get the ones you need but don’t have. Start by creating an inventory.
- Money: Do you have different income streams? Do you have assets (cash and investments)? Do you have money that allows you to take more chances and risk? Less risk isn’t necessarily a bad thing. It can simply mean that finding your dream career will take longer.
- Time: How much extra time do you have to devote to finding your career?
- Energy: Where does your energy currently go? Could you focus more of your energy and attention on finding your career?
- Community: Are there others (parents, siblings, friends, or a significant other) who could support you in your search?
- Experiences: Do you have significant work experience or skills? Do you have a record of success in or outside of work (such success in arts or athletics, for example)?
- Preferences: What do you like to do and what are you good at? What do people come to you for help with? Introspection here can provide clues to a potential career.
- Liabilities: What is consuming your time, attention, money, and energy? Do you have debt consuming your money, negative habits consuming your time (such as substance abuse, gaming, TV, or the internet), other people consuming your resources (such as a negative relationship)?
Where do you want to be? Find the career you love
- Your ideal life and lifestyle. Think big, deeply, and honestly about this. What do you want your life to look like? How will you spend your mornings, afternoons, and evenings? Where will you be and who will be there with you? What will you be doing? Consider the role of your family, friends, social life, hobbies, and anything else you find important.
- How much money will it take to fund that lifestyle? Work backwards to figure out how much everything will cost.
- There are a lot of ways to make money. You can make a lot of money being an employee of a company (estimates suggest there were over 1,000 millionaires at Google at one point). Working in sales can provide the ability to earn a high income while providing time, freedom, and flexibility. Starting your own business has historically been the best path to becoming financially successful in America.
- Do your research. What does it mean to be an engineer at Google? What does a typical day look like and how do you get that job? What do salespeople really do? What does it take to become an entrepreneur? Ask similar questions of whatever career you’re considering.
- Get as much real world experience as you can. Once you’ve narrowed down careers that are of interest to you, dig in deeper. Are there internship opportunities? Can you shadow someone doing it? Can you speak with someone doing it? Getting as close as you can to doing the work to determine if it’s something you want to do for the rest of your life.
How will you get there? Develop your plan
- Approach this with intention. In many ways, it’s better to have limited time and resources than unlimited time and resources. Parkinson’s law tells us that work will expand or contract to fill the time available for its completion. So, if you give yourself all day to do one thing, it will probably take you all day. If you have 30 minutes to get the same task done, you’ll probably get it done. Don’t waste time.
- How much time can you spend figuring this all out? One hour per week? One hour per day? Twelve hours a day? There is no right or wrong answer. Figure out the amount of time you can dedicate and put it on your calendar.
- Having a hard time determining what you want to do? Start by thinking about what you’re interested in. If you had the freedom to do anything with your time, what would you do? The more honest you can be about this, the better. Once you figure that out, start figuring out how you can make money doing it.
- What new learning is required? Does it require a certification or degree? Work experience? Whatever the barriers of entry are, start breaking through them.
- Develop your plan. Note all the steps it will take to get the career you want. It may not take as long as you think, or it may take a lot longer than you think. Most importantly, commit to doing whatever it will take to get there. We’re talking about your life’s work. Fewer things can be more important than that.
Life is both too long to be doing something you hate, and too short to not be doing something you love. You deserve to be doing work that’s important and rewarding. A career you love needs to be sought out and it most likely will not fall in your lap. Dream then make a plan.
As always, I encourage you to talk with someone about what you’re working to get better at. Talk to a friend, coworker, or your favorite cousin. Don’t feel like doing that? Connect with one of our career coaches and hop on a call. As always, ask us anything. Enter your question here. We answer all of them.
You can also access our Goals Course at no-cost.