During most of human history, professional roles were simplistic, limited and straightforward. It's only during the last couple of decades that we have seen an explosion of career possibilities.
Today, we have the freedom to choose amongst countless potential career paths. We have the ability and resources to carve out our own unique trails in ways that are most appealing to us.
Despite being inundated with these bountiful opportunities, many of us feel overwhelmed with all the choices that are available to us. On some level, we feel unequipped to select a career or vocation that resonates with our values and utilizes our full potential. I believe the biggest cause of this common dilemma is the lack of sufficient self-awareness amongst the majority of individuals today.
When most of us enter university, we lack the real-world experiences that can offer us deeper insights into our personalities and abilities. Without proper guidance or an awareness of our personal dispositions, capabilities and skill sets, the chances are high that we will choose majors that will later land us in jobs that won't fulfill us.
After entering the workforce, we become busier than ever, trying to juggle several aspects of our lives. If we do get stuck in dead-end jobs, we lack the time or mindset to reflect on other options and proactively shift our professional trajectories. What we don't realize is, there is a big price to pay for not breaking out of a career rut: not knowing what we are truly capable of achieving.
It's especially important for younger generations such as ours to find meaningful work because a steady paycheck just won't cut it for most of us anymore. As Millennials, we have deeper self-actualizing needs, such as creativity, contribution and progress, and we seek to meet them through the things we do for a living.
If we want to create a brand new path that excites us and gives us a sense of purpose, we must be willing to take the time to seriously consider our options and create a plan of action that will move us in a more suitable direction. If we can't afford to leave our professional comfort zones just yet, we should at least use our spare time to explore and educate ourselves about other possibilities.
Here are a few steps that will enable us to recognize and select career opportunities that are reflections of our authentic selves, passions and purpose:
1. Engage in the process of self-discovery.
“Know thyself.” This famous phrase, coined by the great Shakespeare, denotes the importance of self-knowledge. When we understand ourselves on a deeper level, we will be more adept at creating an alignment between our outer reality and inner vision.
There are several ways in which we can engage in the process of self-discovery, such as doing personality tests and career assessments, reflecting on past work experiences, receiving feedback from co-workers, bosses and mentors and writing out our thoughts and feelings in a journal.
2. Be open to experimentation.
Knowing more about yourself will narrow down your options. But sometimes, you will have to go a step further by engaging in some trial and error to find the best fit for you. In the same way we need to try on a pair of shoes before we decide to purchase it, we may need to test drive different careers before taking the plunge.
There are various ways by which you can try different careers on for size, such as internships, temp placements and job shadowing. Make sure you set a limit on the amount of time, energy and resources you are willing to expend in this process of trial and error, so that you can avoid stretching yourself beyond your capacity.
3. Gather all the facts.
If you are trying to figure out your best career options, you need to do your due diligence by gathering as much data as possible about company backgrounds, office culture and the opportunities for professional growth.
This may sound like a lot of work, but if you are going to invest your time and energy into a certain career path for a prolonged period of time, you need to be clear about what you are getting yourself into. You can do your research on the Internet, network with relevant people or speak to a career counselor.
4. Pay attention to your intuition.
The decision-making process requires a combination of rational logic, as well as another form of instinctive intelligence: your intuition. It doesn't matter whether you believe your intuition is a channel connected to a divine source of guidance or an inventory of knowledge that's been gathered from past experiences.
Whatever you believe, it is an indispensable tool that can provide valuable clues about the most suitable opportunities for you. When it comes to career choices, look for inner clues such as feelings of curiosity, excitement and an eagerness to take on tasks, no matter how challenging they might be.
5. Take the pressure off yourself.
Often times, we feel pressured to find the best opportunities for ourselves because we instinctually feel the finiteness of time. Living in this state of anxiety is not only unpleasant, but it can also block us from moving forward.
One way to lighten up is by realizing each and every decision you make can ultimately serve a purpose in your growth and evolution, if you're open to learning from it. Every job or business proposition you act on is instrumental in getting you closer to your ideal career path and discovering your true potential.
Or, if you're still unsure about discovering something new, put your own unique spin on a classic: