Chances are you have spent more than a few hours trying to find the answer to one massive question: What are you going to do with your life?
This is a struggle that many college students feel on an intense level, and for good cause! Discovering what you are passionate about can be daunting, but I have a few tips that I have learned in my years as an executive coach that can help you enjoy the process and arrive at a career that you love!
1.Align Your Skillset With Your Anticipated Role Skillset.
Early in my college years, I loved seminars. That may sound strange to you, but I invested quite a bit of time both attending them, getting others to attend, and even putting on small seminars or retreats for various groups. It was much later in life that I realized just how passionate I was about the seminar experience. I had no idea that putting on seminars might be an aligned any sort of business activity! To this day I have not only attended hundreds of seminars and training sessions, but creating, promoting and leading seminars is a core role in my current profession.
The great news is you don’t have to wait until you are well into your career to focus on what brings you joy. Invest some time now into finding what careers actually require the skills that you love, that you read about, that you think about and enjoy. My daughter has always loved the idea of home, as well as decorating and visiting new beautiful places…and today she is in the real estate industry. I wish I could say we saw this coming years in advance, but we didn’t! Yes, we observed, but it took longer than you might think to make the connection between her skills and passions and the career that she has chosen.
How are you aligning the skills that you know you have with your future career choices?
2.Ask Others To Point Out Your Unique Interests.
We all seem to have many general and even common interests, but what are the interests that are unique, definitive and even unusual about you? What are you drawn to that is different than those around you?
Today as I coach successful leaders from around the world, there are two general groups that I see as it relates to career choices. The first group is the Generalists, and the second is the Targeted. The Generalists are more likely to have broad interests and just feel attracted to a variety of career areas, while the Targeted leaders have only a few interests, and they are usually more specific, there are likely fewer of them and they are often related to one another. An example of Targeted interests would be enjoying math and engineering, accounting and business, or sales and networking.
The key here is to discern what your unique interests are. Take the time to ask others who know you well (parents, coaches, teachers, friends, etc.). What kind of valuable insights might you gain from them that would help you make the highest quality career decision?
3.Gain Clarity On What Is Not Your Best Direction.
Initially this may sound slightly counterproductive. However, intentionally moving away from an undesired career area can be a freeing and clarifying initial step.
Growing up, my dad was a brilliant engineer, and he designed the Alabama International Motor Speedway in Talladega, Alabama. He truly loved math, engineering and all things specific. However, I was quite the opposite and leaned more toward people-specific areas of interest. I clearly saw early on, along with my math teachers, that fields with a strong focus on numbers were not the pathway for me.
Our Coach Trainer, Michael Wallace, is also an Adjunct Professor at a local university. Each semester he has students complete a Simulation assignment that gives them an extended hands-on experience managing social media accounts. It doesn’t take long for the students to know if they enjoy the process of creating content and developing social media calendars. The takeaway here is that whether they find that they love the assignment or realize that they want to get as far away from social media as possible, the process of discovering that truth is invaluable in whittling away at the myriad of opportunities in front of them.
What are you clear on avoiding in your chosen career?
4.Ask Yourself: What Would I Do For Free, Or If I Didn’t Need Money?
When I ask senior people these questions, I rarely get things like, “I would retire, play golf, travel or just chill.” They seem to look up and to the left and do a bit of deep thinking in the more significant corners of their brains. Usually after a brief pause, they tell me that they would focus on doing things for others and giving back, as well as spending time with their family, specifically their grandchildren.
A lot of wisdom can be gleaned from those on the other end of their careers from you. But this question is less about them, and more about you. Think about your first two decades on earth. Not just in the few minutes while you read this ebook, but really think about it. The answer to this question can be transformative as you seek to find fulfillment in a career that will span several more decades.
Whether you want it to or not, your career choice will become one of the first, if not the first, answers you will give when someone asks who you are. Make sure that the identity you are building is more than just a means to support yourself, but that it is fulfilling beyond simply a paycheck.
What career might best enable you do both create income and also touch on the more significant areas that give life back to others? Which direction can you go that will allow for there to be more life in your living until the days when you may be free to fully do what you want and have a more freed up lifestyle and schedule?
5.Get A Coach!
My company, Leadership Systems, Inc., devotes a significant portion of our work to walking with organizations and leaders that have become stuck. To be more specific, they look up to realize they are neck deep in a major problem. Sometimes it is a company that has to deal with personnel issues, and they reach out to us to right the ship. But, just as often, we are brought in to work with a leader who is stuck personally, usually trying to find some of the same answers in their 40’s, 50’s and 60’s that you are facing right now!
Part of my motivation in telling you this, of course, is to let you know that we have a lot a great coaches who are experienced with major transition at many levels in an organization. But the more important reason is to encourage you to find someone to walk with you through this process!
This journey of career discovery will start and end with your answers to these questions, but that doesn’t mean that you should walk the road alone. Having a coach to continue asking you the next right question along the way can be the difference between settling and succeeding, wandering and winning, or losing your way and launching into your career!
Who can you rely on that you trust to be both invested and impartial? Finding a coach who can focus on helping you set goals, and keep you accountable to take action on those goals, is a vital step to go from where you are right now to discovering the career that you want!
For more information about the coaching options available with Leadership Systems, Inc. and to learn about our unique Career Coaching Packages, head over to leadershipsystems.com/career.
Recently as I was getting ready for a trip, a fairly routine process in my line of work, I realized that I spend a lot of my time focused on preparation.
I prepare for business trips…
I prepare for calls with clients…
I prepare for travel to see family…
I prepare for leadership training around the country…
I find that my focus on preparedness before an event, meeting, call or trip requires quite a bit of my time. However, this time spent on the habit of preparation is one of my greatest keys to success.
When I was 12 years old, one of my favorite activities was being a Boy Scout. If you know anything about the Scouts, you probably know the Scout Motto: “Be Prepared.” These two words are simple, unforgettable and quite profound. And it is a motto that has stuck with me from my very first campout.
While on this campout I recall our group needing some twine, and I was sent to the leader’s tent to retrieve it. When I got there the Scout Master asked if I had my knife with me.
“No.” I said.
“Would you like to use mine?” He replied.
“Yes, thank you,” I answered, as I reached out my hand.
His response has stuck with me for 50 years since that moment.
After a brief pause, the Scout Master told me, “You can use my knife, but it will cost you 15 pushups.”
I was stunned! The Scout Master was very polite, and not aggressive at all with his request, but at age 12 I was shocked to be required to do pushups in order to complete the task my group had assigned to me.
The truth of the situation was that I was not prepared for the task. Had the Scout Master not been at the tent, I would have had to hike back to my group to retrieve my knife, and then hike back to get the twine. The wise Scout Master took this opportunity to illuminate for me the importance of being prepared. The lesson was that if you are not fully prepared, extra effort might be required.
How true is that in your life? I know it is true for mine. That day was half of a century ago, and to this day as I prepare for an event, or travel or a normal, boring Wednesday, that interaction flashes through my mind, and I think, “Do you have everything you need? Are you truly prepared for this task?”
As a graduate of the Citadel, I know first-hand the emphasis that our military places on preparedness. Soldiers will spend exponentially more time preparing for tasks than they do actually carrying them out. Why? Because being prepared is vital to success.
I recently heard Alabama football coach Nick Saban, when asked about his team’s practice schedule, say:
“We practice a lot. Most of you think we practice so much so that we will get it right, but in reality we practice so much so that we cannot get it wrong.”
Did you catch the distinction there?
If you want to get something right once, practice it until you can do it. But if you want to get it right every time, practice until doing it right is the only way you do it.
So, how would you rate your preparedness?
This concept seems to be both fundamental and essential for success in business and in life, but does your calendar or to do list reflect how important preparation is for you?
Do you prepare for your week ahead? Your month, quarter or even year?
How thoughtful are you about what needs to happen in a given day?
And, if you don’t spend the time focused on preparedness, how likely are you to stumble into or accidentally arrive at success in your career, relationships or life?
I believe the Scouts have nailed it with their two-word motto: Be Prepared.
That is how we make success happen.