Set Career Goals When You Lack Direction
Set Career Goals When You Lack Direction. you’re long past the age where people ask you what you want to be when you grow up — but you’re still trying to figure out what you want to be when you grow up. Maybe you’re in a dead-end job, or maybe you’re out of work. You know that you need to make some positive moves, but you just can’t figure out what you want in a career.
It’s time to block out some time in your calendar to sit down with yourself and make a plan. Here are some things that can help point you in the right direction of your perfect career.
Mark the day when you will quit your job on the calendar
You’re about to embark on a journey of self-exploration, and just like a vacation, this journey will have a hard end date. A deadline gives you the urgency you need to figure this all out. Don’t feel guilty when you come to work each day knowing that this job has a set ending point. Remember that company loyalty is rarely reciprocated; if it didn’t need you anymore, the company would most likely discard you at the drop of a hat.
Don’t worry about how long you’ve been on the job. If you have financial reasons to stay, such as union seniority or a pension vesting, certainly take those into consideration. But do not let yourself be stuck in place out of a feeling of obligation.
Look for self-improvement opportunities at work
Before you leave your current job, explore every benefit your employer offers. If they pay for education, take a class. If they allow telecommuting, set up a day a week that you work from home to arrange your work schedule around job interviews if the need arises. Also, If they have a mentorship program, sign up. Take advantage of every resource at your disposal while you still have them. Don’t feel guilty about using these resources when you’re planning to leave. Of course, you also shouldn’t be slacking off or searching for a new job while on company time, either.
Reach out to your network
At work, in your neighborhood, or among college or high school alumni, ask everyone you know and trust about their workplace and their job. What do they love about it? What kind of staff can they never find enough of? Also, What could they imagine you doing there? Can they give you a tour of their workplace?
After college, my husband didn’t know what he wanted to do with his art degree. But he met some friends who had a startup video game company, and he started visiting this company after his regular job, offering some of his skills for free and just hanging out. Once he realized how much he liked the work, he ended up pursuing a career as a game artist.
When you ask friends and family for career advice, accept that you will get plenty of unrealistic suggestions. These people may not have researched the jobs they’re suggesting, so they might not know, for example, how long it takes to start making money as a hair stylist or how long you have to study to become a veterinarian. Pass up the fluff and push people to share their firsthand knowledge about their own jobs and workplaces.
Take a career aptitude test. It can help you identify what your skills and preferences are and make suggestions on what careers might be within your skill set. You may even learn about a career you didn’t know existed.
For obvious reasons, a volunteer job is a lot easier to get than a paid job, and the commitment tends to be low. So it can be a good opportunity to try out new roles and to uncover passions you didn’t know you had. Through volunteering during the cookie sale with my daughters’ Girl Scout troops, for example, I learned that I love inventory management, a career path that I never would have imagined for myself.
Find out if your company offers paid volunteer time during the weekday, or carve out some evening or weekend time for volunteer jobs. (See also: 7 College Courses That Will Boost Your Career)
Make a list of what you’re passionate about
If you’ve already tried the first few steps on this list, you’ve had the opportunity to explore your interests. Now have a meeting with yourself where you list those things. Rank them. You only have one life. Is it most important to you that you spend it in a career that helps children, or is it more important that you get to use your organizational skills? Once you have a short, well-edited list, post it in a place that forces you to look at it every day.