Finding a fulfilling career can seem like a dream, especially if you’re currently miserable at your job. You might have zero clue about what you’d like to do. And that’s understandable. “We’re not taught how to make this kind of decision,” according to Laura Simms, a career coach for creatives. For most people, she said, the traditional route of picking a major in college and then matching a job to that major isn’t effective.
Also, career aptitude tests aren’t necessarily helpful in identifying the best career for you. “Much like an IQ test is an incomplete measure of your intelligence, career tests can only quantify so much,” Simms said.
Finding a Feasible and Fulfilling Career
So what does work? Below Simms and other coaches share valuable advice for finding a fulfilling — and feasible — career.
Consider what other people thank you for.
The goal of this activity is to find common threads, according to Michelle Ward, aka The When I Grow Up Coach, who’s helped almost 200 creative people devise the career they think they can’t have — or discover it to begin with.
Spend two minutes writing down what others thank you for. Spend another two minutes writing down what anyone can do. “No censoring allowed — don’t exclude the silly, the ‘stupid,’ the things that aren’t career-related — and don’t let your pen leave the paper or fingers leave the keys,” Ward said.
Also, “Rifle through those old report cards/job reviews/thank you notes and emails you accumulated over the years to find those key descriptions that keep popping up.” Next, brainstorm ways that you might monetize your skills, she said.
Comb the past for patterns.
Tracy Brisson, the founder and CEO of The Opportunities Project, a career coaching and recruitment consulting company, believes that your past can hold clues to a passionate career. She suggested “Creating a timeline that goes as far back as school activities and charts triumphs and disappointments.”
Write a letter to yourself — in the future.
Let yourself dream and find a future that you’d like to create, Ward said. Begin your letter with “Dear Future MyNameHere,” and write down everything that’s happened to you that year, where you live and what you’ve accomplished, she said. Here’s Ward’s letter.
Use social media to research ideas.
“Search LinkedIn or Twitter to look at what other people do and how they got there,” Brisson said. Many will probably be happy to talk to you about their own careers.
Visualize your ideal world.
“Set a timer and put on your favorite dreamiest song, and let yourself drift to your own world — literally,” Ward said. In Ward’s world “… I get to know everyone…personally and they’re all sweet and fun and caring and creative, and they all live their passionate careers without worrying about money or disappointing their doctor parents,” she said.
Then, consider how your land can be translated into the real world. Ward buys tickets to musicals, surrounds herself with creative and caring people and helps them live their passionate careers.
Think about what you’d do if you didn’t have anyone to disappoint or answer to.
“Would it be something that’s been a deep dark secret since you were little — like be a published writer — or something you’ve recently discovered you love but isn’t so mainstream or stable,” Ward said.
Once you realize your dream career, write down all your excuses. And then get rid of that piece of paper. Create a new list of how to make your dream happen, starting with the smallest or easiest things to do, Ward said. (Also, check out Ward’s free resources.)
Reflect on your legacy.
“What kind of legacy do you want to leave?” Simms said. “Your ideal career is always in alignment with your answer.”