Some years back, I was talking to a relative fresh out of university. He did well in his final year and he had a lot of opportunities open to him. When we met, I asked him what he was going to do with his life. He looked at me in surprise.
”First of all I’ll get a job, any job to pay my debts, save some cash and then I’ll see.”
Fast-forward to his mid-thirties and he is still working in the same job, just about paying the bills and waiting for inspiration. Although this may be an extreme case, many of us are snowed under millions of reasons not to plan our career; children, family, health issues, get stuck making more and more excuses.
What can we do differently in order to prosper and to end up with the career we want?
When I was spinning without direction, the image, “only dead fish swim with the current” really struck a chord with me. It was one of those “ah-ha!” moments. The truth had suddenly hit me in the face. If I don’t plan, simply going with the flow will likely land me nowhere. Having an aim, a goal and a purpose brings everything else in line. The transformation was amazing for me - I had found my purpose.
Although you should dream big, start small. When I first tried to plan my career, it was simply overwhelming. So I started with planning my day. Planning what I wanted to get out of my day was a challenge. I set three tasks to achieve and gradually added more. If I achieved those planned tasks, I was happy because I knew I was on the right track, not only to achieve what I set out to do but to trust myself more.
It was difficult, but gradually, things started to fit. It was only when I started planning my week that I had another “light bulb” moment. I had to know where I was going with my life in order to understand whether I was wasting my time with tasks that would not take me in the direction I wanted to go.
Spend time thinking about what excites you
Ask yourself the following questions: Are you on the right track? Is what you are aiming for really exciting for you? Can you see yourself progressing with what you are doing?
If your answer is anything other than yes, then it’s time to take stock! Figure out what ignites your soul, what gives you that sparkle, what gets you to talk non-stop. Then think about what are the paths you can take to get there. Read, ask questions and talk to people who have done what you would like to do. Gather as much information as you possibly can, but also follow your instincts.
Write down your goals and where you would like to go. Writing them down will help you to focus and sharpen. Once you start to write everything down and piece it together, understand how you can achieve those goals. Is there an obvious path to take to get you where you would like to go? Do you need to spend time learning new skills? Do you need to improve your skills? Do you need a mentor? It will probably be a mix of many things. Write down what you think the most important steps are and who could you ask for support.
Re-think, make mistakes, try again and don’t give up
Once you have a direction go for it. But don’t be afraid to take your time. Take things one step at a time, one day at a time. If you are moving towards your goal, then you are making progress. And if it does not work for you, re-think. You may have some new information and some of your goals may change and that’s ok. Make mistakes, but don’t be defeated. The road ahead may be hard and long. Every successful person you will ever meet will tell you that to get where they are, the journey had been hard, full of surprises and not at all straightforward but they knew what they wanted, they were committed to what they were doing and they did not give up. It is worth it to give it all your best, and whilst you career does not define who you are, it is often a fulfilling life you are committing to.