Answering the “what do I want to do with my life” question

The purpose of this blog is to help answer specific questions posed by people who are in career transition.  My background has mainly been working with college and graduate students, who are focused on either switching to a new career to advancing in a chosen profession. 

A prominent question that comes up for people I work with are: How to I figure out what I’ll like to do?  This is a question asked not just by young college students who don’t have too much life experience, but by mid-career professionals with 20 years of experience who think they want to switch careers but aren’t sure what they want to do next.  It can be an unsettling feeling for anyone, regardless of age or experience. 

As a career advisor, I try to avoid pat and cute answers… because there are none.  Some folks simply don’t end up identifying themselves by their careers, but rather by other parts of their identity, like their hobbies and interests, family relationships, where they live, their nationality, religion or spiritual beliefs, or (worst case scenario!) things they own.  But for the bulk of people who are trying to identify themselves based on their career, a career transition is a tough situation to be in.

I often suggest for people to start by doing self-assessment, reflection, and maybe taking some “time out” to do something quiet and individual  for themselves (a weekend retreat etc.).  Think back to things you’ve done and enjoyed– what did they have in common?  Are there any themes?  Find a career search partner, friend, or counselor to talk to.  Identifying your own skills and interests isn’t always easy.  But starting with thinking through some themes in your past can be a great place to start on the career identification process.

I’ll give some more specific ideas in my next post about how to identify your career interests, skills, and personality. 

What has worked for you, when trying to figure out what you want to do with your life?

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