Find your passion
What are you interested in? What are you passionate about? Growing up, our interests can change drastically. We may have been interested in a hobby, such as cycling and sports, and then grow up to be interested in a totally different field, such as teaching. It is important that you follow your current passion (after much consideration and knowing for certain that it is not simply a ‘phase’). Having said that, don’t be quick to discount past interests; the past can help in determining your other fields of interest, but attention should be placed more on your current interests. For example, when you were much younger, you dreamt of becoming a doctor, and your parents being doctors themselves, wished for you to follow the road they took. While in high school, you got introduced to drama and realized that you weren’t interested in biology or the sciences anymore. You then started to have an internal conflict, with others’ expectations of what you should choose vs. a long held dream of yours. The solution is simple: just realize that you have changed. If you are not excited anymore about something, then it belongs in the past.Your career should be about something you are passionate about currently.
If you’re having challenges trying to find out your strengths (and trust me, you have a lot), there are many resources out there that can help you. There’s an amazing work by Tom Rath called StrengthsFinder 2.0, and it is the most detailed I’ve seen to date. Other books like the classic What Color Is Your Parachute? by Richard Nelson Bolles is helpful but not as thorough and explicit as StrengthsFinder when it comes to determining which specific talents you have. In each category, there will be sub-categories, and under each sub-category, they enlist pages and pages of specific traits or attributes you may have related to that strength. For Tom Rath, there is no such thing as a good or bad employee; each of us has our own talents, and it is a matter of finding out which ones those are and finding a perfect role that will allow those talents to shine. For short, it is all a matter of finding a career or endeavor that matches our strengths.
Research the field(s)
After determining your passion and finding out about your strengths, you must then find out more about the field (or fields) of your interest. Yes, a career doesn’t have to be solely focused on a single field. You can be a singer, for example, and be a writer as well. Singing and writing are two different professions, but there is no reason to give up one for the other. You can do and even succeed in both. After identifying where you want to move towards, research more about it. Are you going to be an entrepreneur? Then talk to people who are currently having their own businesses up and running already. Want to be a pilot? Read up on what it takes to be one. It’s important to get as much feedback from people who are already in the career path you wish to take. If you were previously romanticizing what you thought to be a glamorous job, you might realize it’s not for you after someone points out the other not-so-romantic side of it.Make the internet your library and read up on different occupations you are considering before making a decision. With so many job sites these days, you can easily access detailed job descriptions of various position in an organization.
Follow your gut
After weighing in on many factors such as commute, salary, environment, time involved, work-life balance, and other personal preferences, in the end, you need to follow your gut. I know someone who wanted to follow a longtime passion but wanted to be ‘practical’ and took the higher paying job only to feel resentful later on. In the end, he lost motivation to keep working, missed a few days, and was subsequently let go by the company.Or perhaps there may be instances when you are drawn to a business opportunity but are undecided to fully take it on as you know that it will mean sacrificing time with your family. Trust that your instincts will take you to a win-win and perfect situation where compromising is not necessary. I have turned down lucrative offers in the past only to be greeted with even better offers.
After finding the perfect career choice for you, relax and allow yourself to enjoy and immerse in your new role. Aim to thrive and not just ‘survive’ in your chosen field. You will acquire many other strengths and talents along the way, and apart from knowledge, you will gain maturity. Do not be surprised though, if after a few years or a few jobs, you realize it’s again time to rethink your career. As humans, it is in our nature to evolve, so don’t feel bad to let go or leave a career behind; it may turn out to be the best choice to make at that time. And remember when you reach that ‘fork’ again; there is no need to worry as you already have the tools that can guide you onto a different career path.
BA, MA Psychology (and Conflict Resolution), University of Cambridge (2007). With a decade of trial and error in psychology and 33 years of navigating my own complex (that's one word for it!) relationships with family, friends, co-workers and men, I hope I have some useful knowledge and skills to share with my readers about making sense of relationships and trying to become a better person every day.