Stuck In The Career Starting Blocks?

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Do you wake up every day still trying to figure out what to do with your working life? Still trying to decide on what to be? You may be out of work or perhaps working on a casual basis just to bring in some income while you figure it out, but feel mounting stress as the days pass and you’re still no closer to knowing.

This continuous doubt isn’t healthy, and you might be asking yourself another question; “What’s wrong with me?” It’s like you’re in the race of your life but still stuck in the starting blocks while all the people you know are disappearing in the fast lane well ahead of you.

First of all, may I suggest you avoid comparing yourself to other people. This is hard I know because much of your life that’s exactly what you’ve experienced. Whether it was your parents comparing you to your siblings, your teacher grading you against your classmates, or someone on television trying to sell you something you must have to keep up with the neighbours, you’ve always been compared and contrasted to others. This however, is your life; you’re unique.

Maybe you have some idea of things you don’t want to do. Knowing what you don’t want to do is useful yes, but ask yourself what it is about a certain job that doesn’t appeal to you. Is it the ever-present contact with people you want to avoid? Maybe it’s the noise level of the job, the monotony, the low pay or the environment you’d have to work in. When you can identify why certain jobs are unappealing, you might start to see some common elements in things you want to avoid.

So knowing the things you don’t want to do is useful. However, this is only so helpful. You may know in what direction you don’t want to move, but until you leave those starting blocks, you’re still not moving. A second thing to think about moves beyond what you don’t want to do and why to looking at the things you do enjoy. So what are you doing when you find yourself happy? What is it about that activity that brings you joy? Is it the solitude? Is it the challenge of a crossword? Maybe you enjoy the physical exertion of working in the garden and seeing the results of a full days weeding and pruning your shrubs. Perhaps you’re the kind of person who feels at your best when you change the oil in your car and detail the inside so it looks in showroom condition.

Writing down the things you enjoy and looking at why these things are enjoyable can – just like the negative things – reveal some commonalities. What are the common threads that connect all the things you love doing? Maybe you’re happiest in the company of other people or when you’re all alone and on your own. Maybe it’s the quiet of the early mornings before anyone else is stirring that you find so stimulating and peaceful.

Armed with some knowledge of things you enjoy and some you don’t, plus the even more important reasons why behind each, you’re posed to start moving forward. Now is the best time to start doing a number of things – and the order in which you do these doesn’t matter. Look at the people you know and imagine yourself in their role. Consider yourself working in the office like your best friend, or assisting a Dentist like your neighbour. The woman across the street who drives the tow-truck? Yep, picture yourself doing her job too. Now, despite your assumptions about how each of these people spend their day, you probably only have a very superficial understanding of what they actually do. One obvious thing to find out more is to have a conversation with these folks. Ask about their jobs, what they find satisfying and what ask them to tell you something you’d find surprising about their job.

Another thing you can do is look up what a job is all about online. If you live in Canada for example, you can check the National Occupation Classification (NOC) code at Cut and paste that link into your browser and by entering in a job title, you can find out what the responsibilities of jobs include. There are far more jobs there then you’d come up with all on your own, and you can research all those occupations from your easy chair.

With every activity you do, be acutely aware of why a job is one you’d dismiss or find attractive. What are the commonalities of the things you’d like to consider doing. Seeking out people who actually do these jobs and interviewing them is a good idea, but keep in mind you’re you and they are not. You might love the job they do while they have come to find it less fulfilling than they did at one time. Don’t base your career decision solely on their happiness.

Career Counsellors at Universities and Colleges or Employment Centres are other sources of information. Schedule a sit-down meeting and explore some possibilities. If you find one person not very helpful, ask others and don’t use one poor interaction as a reason to stop your search. It’s your life here we’re talking about!

You’ll likely need some training and education moving forward. Embrace it and get started.

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