The perfect career can mean different things to different people, but when it comes to discovering your ideal career path, there are three essential ingredients you need to consider: your passions, your skills, and the kind of lifestyle you want.
You might remember at some point taking a career assessment test in high school or university. You know the ones… they ask you those awfully boring questions about your personality, like “Do you enjoy forming your own explanations of how things work.” Ummm, what?
Then, the results of the assessment provide you with careers that are supposed to be a perfect match for you, which in reality, are rarely helpful.
If you’re good with your hands, love the outdoors, and want a lifestyle that includes a connection to nature, these career tests might tell you to become a lumberjack. But after carefully you may end up discovering that what you really want is become a scuba diving instructor in the Philippines – which is nothing like chopping trees in the woods!
So how do you get started in discovering your perfect career?
Ingredient #1: What are you PASSIONATE about?
First and foremost, your perfect career has got to line up with something you’re passionate about. It cannot be stressed how important this is – it’s the enabler to finding your perfect career. If you don’t have passion, you can’t get the next two ingredients.
But no matter how much it’s stressed, young people still pursue careers they aren’t passionate about. And “I’m kinda interested in it” doesn’t count. Passion is fire. It’s a never-ending spark to do something great. So if what you’re doing doesn’t excite you, then keep searching.
If you’re going to spend the rest of your life doing something that you don’t love, in the pursuit of money or whatever else, then you might as well just throw in the towel now, because you know what’s going to happen when things get tough or even the slightest bit challenging?
Because you’re sane.
Steve Jobs, co-founder of Apple, said it best in an interview discussing his secrets to success.
“People say you have to have a lot of passion for what you’re doing and it’s totally true. And the reason is because things will get so hard, that if you don’t have passion, any rational person would give up … And that’s what happens to most people actually – if you really look at the ones that ended up being ‘successful’ in the eyes of society and the ones that didn’t, oftentimes the one’s that are successful loved what they did so much that they could persevere when it got really tough. And the ones that didn’t love it quit … because they’re sane! Who would want to put up with this stuff if you don’t love it? It’s a lot of hard work, and it’s a lot of worrying constantly, and if you don’t love it you’re going to fail. So you gotta love it. You gotta have passion.”
“Do what you love and the money will come” is probably the most heard, yet least listened to saying of all time. Young people are pursuing things they don’t love, and no matter how much money they think they’ll make, they won’t. Because the people with passion will trump you 10 times out of 10. You’re career HAS to have meaning – something that’s important to you and who you are. Be daring, be bold, do something that you LOVE and everything else will sort itself out. It’s as simple as that.
Ingredient #2: What are you GOOD at?
(Or have the potential to be good at…)
Passion is critical, but it isn’t everything.
The second step in the ladder to your perfect career is finding something you’re good at. Your career has to bring you purpose – a reason why you get up in the morning, or the feeling of knowing that what you’re doing is contributing positively to society and to the world. It’s like the welcome letter you get the day when you join Apple:
Read the last line again… “Something that couldn’t happen anywhere else.”This is exactly what we mean when we say “Do something you’re good at (or have the potential to be good at)”. When you’re doing something that can’t or won’t happen without your involvement, that’s when you get the ultimate sense of meaning.
There are times when you’re good at things that you’re not passionate about. If that’s the case, keep looking. Everyone has a talent, and everyone has been nurtured with some sort of skill set. The trick is discovering it and exploiting it.
And being good at something doesn’t mean that you have to be able to do every aspect of the career. It just means you have a ticket to play, and the potential to grow. If you want to be a lawyer, but you’re terrible at absorbing information, either work hard to fix the problem or really examine why you wanted to be a lawyer in the first place. Maybe there are aspects of the career that originally appealed to you that may also be present in other jobs, like teaching, politics, or business. But overall, being good at something just means that you should have the potential to develop the skills and knowledge that are necessary to take your career where you want it to go.
Ingredient #3: Consider the LIFESTYLE you want / need
Lifestyle isn’t everything, and it shouldn’t dictate your career path. But it needs to be a consideration when planning for your future. It’s important to be frank and honest here. What type of lifestyle do you really want or need in your life? Sure, nine cars and an airplane are nice, but they definitely aren’t practical.
And lifestyle isn’t just about money either, it’s about where you live, the hours you work, how much free time you have to be with friends and family, the amount of interaction you have with co-workers, or the time you spend indoors versus outdoors.
Not everyone would be happy with the same lifestyle, and the one you really want depends on what’s important to you. This aspect of your career should be thoughtfully considered, but be careful not to let it overshadow the other elements that go into discovering your perfect career.
Discovering your perfect career.
Don’t know how to get started? There’s a simple exercise that can help you get your feet off the ground when it comes to finding your perfect career.
First, take a moment to think about the lifestyle you want. Remember, this is an important factor to consider but is arguably the least important of the three. Write down a few ideas about your ideal lifestyle. For example, you might write down things like “flexible schedule,” “competitive pay,” and “option to travel.” Set this list aside.
Take out a new sheet of paper and write down “the things I love.” Now, make a list of all your passions, and include all the things you care about. For example, you might volunteer at a pet shelter or love working with children. You could feel passionately about gardening, learning new things, or helping small businesses. Whatever it is that you care about, write it down. Don’t worry if it doesn’t seem like your passions could ever lead to a career. That part comes later.
On a third sheet of paper, write down “the things I’m good at (or have the ability to be good at).” This is a list of skills, talents, interests, areas of knowledge, and subjects that you excel at or have potential in. Remember, you don’t have to have all the necessary skills and knowledge right now. You just need to have the potential ability to excel. For example, you can write down “playing the piano.” You might not have the advanced skills needed to be a concert pianist, but if you enjoy playing the piano and you’re musically inclined, you certainly have the ability to improve your skills.
Put your second two lists side by side, and pay attention to what they have in common. Your “passion” list might say you’re passionate about “equal rights.” Your “skills” list might say you’re good at “working with animals.” You may have a future career advocating for animal rights.
Don’t forget the first list you made: “lifestyle.” Ask yourself if a career advocating for animal rights, which likely involves working for a nonprofit organization, fits with the lifestyle you want. A lifestyle that includes working outdoors and having a flexible schedule might be perfect for working with and on behalf of animals. A lifestyle that includes a high income and lots of travel might not.
One other thing to consider is creating your own perfect career. Just because your ideal career doesn’t seem to exist doesn’t mean you can’t create your own. That’s what Jullien Gordon did. Jullien received an MBA from Stanford University, one of the most prestigious business schools in the world. However, after earning his degree, Jullien couldn’t find a career path that fit with his passions, skills, and the lifestyle he wanted. So he created his own perfect career.
Jullien now works as a Purpose Finder, traveling the U.S. teaching students, young professionals, and business clients how to maximize their own success by aligning their passions with their profession. Jullien believes that everyone can realize their D.R.E.A.M., which means to have the “Desired Relationships Employment And Money” you want. This is Jullien’s definition of the perfect career. He found his, and you can find yours, too!
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