7 Steps to Find a Meaningful Career Path
Expert Tips to Help Discover Your Calling
Before you jump into anything, first take time to think about yourself and your interests. “Reflect on the question, ‘What would you still do even if you weren't paid to do it?’” says holistic health coach Marissa Vicario. “Knowing how you would answer this question and also discovering what you're passionate about can lead you down the right path.”
Journaling and meditating may help surface ideas about what makes you happy and feel purposeful. Think about hobbies you enjoy, what your favorite courses were in school and where you’ve always pictured yourself as an adult.
Once you have established a few areas of interest you’d like to explore, it’s key to network, network, network. Networking will not only help you make inroads to land a position that you want, but it will also be a critical step in learning if this is the field you really want to pursue.
Clinical psychologist Dr. Ramani Durvasula recommends talking to people in your fields of interest to gather important information: “Ask them about their lifestyles, day to day responsibilities and tasks, what they love about the job, hate about the job.” Be sure to really make your rounds. “Talk to both men and women, and folks of different ages and stages,” recommends Durvasula. “And also ask them what kind of training is needed: school; apprenticeships; how long does it take.”
Try Out Different Fields
Now you need to get out there and immerse yourself in the fields you’re leaning toward in any way that you can.
“Take any opportunity you can to try them out—internships, volunteering, shadowing someone,” says Durvasula. “Sometimes the reality doesn't meet the idea you had about the field, or you may realize that you found what you love.”
Put that networking to good use and ask your contacts about internship opportunities with their companies or even if they need extra volunteers for an upcoming function. Get immersed in the world in which you imagine yourself and see if you actually like it as much as you think you will. If you find that you do, be disciplined and showcase your best work by doing even the most diminutive task 100 percent—you never know what volunteer position or internship could turn into a job offer.
Be Realistic: Pursue Dreams & Pay Rent
You have to hone in on your talents and what is genuine for your life, and you should dream big. Doing that may mean that it takes a while to get a job in your area of interest, or perhaps you’ll need to pursue school or training before you can get the job.
“Be realistic,” says Durvasula. “If you do like several areas and find that some are impossible to get into and some can get going, see if you can create a hybrid. The rent has to get paid, so perhaps do something for money and develop in other areas, but don't just take a job for the money—make sure it is one of the interests you have.”
Design a Dream Hybrid Career
There’s nothing like indifference to give you that nagging, stressful feeling in your gut about your future. If you find yourself caught between two career interests and you simply cannot, will not pick between the two, try pairing them together. You’re only truly limited by your imagination on this one.
As Durvasula explains, “Make a hybrid. Perhaps your interests are children, art, music and interior design. Options could then be teaching, but also having an interior design business with a focus on kid’s rooms.”
If you’re unsure where to start, don’t get discouraged. Building a specialized career can take time. “Sometimes hybrids take a while to develop,” says Durvasula. “If any of your career interests involve a long educational path you may want to get that ball rolling and then perhaps as you are a student, or once you start your career, build the other interests into it.”
Durvasula herself maintains a hybrid career, so she knows firsthand that it can take time, but is worth it. “I have always loved journalism and psychology, now I get to do news commentary on the field of psychology,” she explains. “It allows me to bring my expertise into a journalistic space, but it took a long time to get there—and that's fine.”
Trust Your Instincts
Trusting your instincts is crucial to finding the career path that is right for you.
“Trust. Your. Gut,” emphasizes Durvasula. “You know what's best for you—don't get over-influenced by overzealous family, friends, etc. who think they know what is best for you. It's your life—what do you want your days to look like?”
It doesn’t matter if you come from four generations of surgeons—it’s totally OK if you want to be a writer, a yoga teacher, a lawyer, etc.
Find Your ‘Why’
To find your ultimate place in life, you must find your purpose in life—why you’re here and why you do what you do. You may find that you need to feel purpose in your career to feel like you are leading a meaningful life.
“You have to find your why,” explains Amy Jo Martin, entrepreneur and New York Times best-selling author. “In the words of Simon Sinek, ‘People don’t buy what you do, they buy why you do it.’ It’s not an easy thing to discover; some people never do. I always encourage people to spend some time pondering why they do what they do because finding my ‘why’ profoundly changed my life and led me to my Royal Bliss: helping others do difficult things.”
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