Who’s in Charge of Your Career?

Marionette sitting passively on a chairThere are a variety of ways that people end up in their careers.

Some have known what they wanted to do since they were very young, and that vision they had for their future never wavered. Others faced a bit of indecision in college and tried out a few majors before settling on something that felt like a good fit. Still others were swept up by life circumstances that deposited them into a career they hadn’t considered before, but they find the work enjoyable and they pursue the path as far as they want to go with it.

To some degree or another, all of these folks have been actively involved in leading their careers, in shaping the direction they took. It makes sense, really – who better is going to know your likes, dislikes, and aptitudes than you?

And then there are those who have not taken much (if any) initiative in their careers. They have let other people talk them into what they should do because “there’s a lot of opportunity in XX field” or “you’re really good at ______” (math, working with kids, whatever). They go to school and enter the workforce all at the behest of someone other than themselves.

What’s wrong with this picture?

What’s wrong is that somebody from the outside is calling all the shots. The ones doing the advising could have the best of intentions, or they could have some hidden agenda that benefits them more. Regardless of the motives, the person saying, “Do this! Go there!” doesn’t have the inside scoop on you. Only you possess that knowledge, even if you don’t think you do.

Sure, it can feel easier to take the career path that is suggested for you. After all, you are probably going through a state of self-doubt and confusion regarding what you want to do, and that outside advisor seems so sure this route is just perfect for you. But where are you going to be 5, 10, 20 years down the line? Are you going to be satisfied in your career?

The truth is, maybe you will. Maybe the person who gave you a good shove into this career got lucky and hit on a career that works well for you. But maybe you won’t be happy. Maybe you will find yourself in a soul-sucking job that makes you wish for any reason in the world to not have to go to work each day.

Do you really want to gamble with your career – your life – that way?

Instead of leaving your career happiness up to chance, be an active part of leading your career in the direction you want to take. Not sure how to begin? Follow these tips:

  1. Take a piece of paper and write two lists: one of all the things you are good at, and the other of the things you enjoy doing. Circle the items that are common to both lists.
  2. Go online and explore career options that would involve the items that you circled. Find specific jobs within the general fields. Try to find job descriptions for the specific positions and determine what the requirements are to be hired for such a position. Ask yourself if you would be willing to do what is necessary to become qualified for the job(s).
  3. Talk with people who are working in the field. Don’t only ask them about why they like their job. Ask them about what they don’t like about it and about their worst day on the job. Ask about the day-to-day tasks, not just the high points. Then ask yourself if you think you could deal with the minutia that comes with the job and the parts that you would have outright disdain for.
  4. If schooling is a necessary part of breaking into the industry, contact an advisor at a school that offers degrees in this field to make sure it’s the appropriate education for what you want to go for specifically.
  5. Are there opportunities to volunteer in the field (or close to it)? If so, find a nonprofit that provides them. Not only will this help build some hands-on experience, but the community involvement will look great on your résumé!

There is no reason to hand the reins of your career over to someone else. Take the lead in your career and drive it in the direction that is the best fit for you!

Image courtesy of becksshaw

Originally published on LeadSwag

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