There has never been a better time to build something new.
Ever been to one of those stores where you build your own teddy bear? Do they still exist?
I remember going as a kid and loving it. You would start with a deflated shell of a teddy bear and the first step was to fill it with stuffing - giving it life. Then you would add a heart before closing it up in the back. Once it was full, there were an endless number of accessories you could add - including shoes, hats, clothes and more. Your bear could be a doctor or a cowboy or a teacher or a soccer player - anything you can think of the bear was capable of.
What does this have to do with your career path? Kind of a lot.
We are living in a moment of a great reassessment of how, why, where and what we do for work. It is difficult to look at the news without seeing a headline pointing to the current, and surprising trends occurring in the work force. To me, it seems like people are waking up to their potential, and realizing that they have more options than they realized. It also seems as though people are placing a higher value on safety, flexibility, purpose, wellness, and work-life balance.
According to this Washington Post analysis, "There is also growing evidence - both anecdotal and in surveys - that a lot of people want to do something different with their lives than they did before the pandemic. The coronavirus outbreak has had a dramatic psychological effect on workers, and people are reassessing what they want to do and how they want to work."
Gone are the days when getting a job at a large company meant that you were taken care of for the rest of your life. As we've seen in recent years, employers are more than willing to cut ties with even veteran employees when the bottom line is at stake.
The good news is, it has never been easier to learn, connect, and create something new. Thanks to the internet and the normalization of working remotely, the opportunities really are endless.
So the question remains for many - what's next?
Here are some things to consider as you explore new career options.
When did you feel most happy in your career?
Think back to a time when you felt engaged with your work or life. What was it about what you were doing that brought you a sense of happiness and fulfillment? Take a look at the specific characteristics that contributed to your engagement and enjoyment. Maybe you had an amazing boss, or you were using certain skills you enjoy using. Perhaps you had more autonomy or clarity in terms of your role and schedule. Or maybe you were just doing something that you really enjoy doing.
There may have also been certain aspects of this role, or other roles, that you did not enjoy. Maybe the pay wasn't great or it didn't provide benefits. Or perhaps you didn't resonate with the company's culture or mission. Maybe there were duties or expectations that felt draining or stressful. Just take note of what didn't work for you about it, or what aspects made you feel burnt out.
If you had three wishes for your career, what would they be?
I recommend being as specific as possible when answering this question. You can refer back to your answers to the last questions in helping you formulate your wishes.
The reason for asking yourself this is that this will give you some insight on where you'd actually like to be headed in your career. Often times we think that our wishes are impractical, or impossible, or unattainable. But if we spend one third of our life at work, is it really worth it to continue doing something that you don't feel engaged with, or excited about doing? If we never admit to ourselves that secret thing that we've always thought would be really cool to do, but never actually told anyone about because it seemed too weird, or risky, or out there, or impossible, how will we ever know if it is possible? If you never admit to others what your dream career scenario is, at the very least, admit it to yourself. Nobody ever has to know.
What would it take to grant yourself these wishes?
Have you ever actually looked into doing that thing that you've always wanted to do? For me, I had no idea that I was capable of doing what I do now without jumping through some major hoops. I had this limiting belief that the only way to help people on their career path was to become a career counselor. And the only way to become a career counselor was to go into debt for an advanced degree in counseling, plus many hours of internship, practicum and supervised hours, plus sitting of a licensure exam. This process can take five plus years when all is said and done. So after learning that, I put career guidance on the back burner and moved on with my life.
Fast forward a decade, I come to learn that there are many different ways that I can help people find their career path - including certificate courses and training programs in career development. I was able to learn how to interpret assessments, build helping relationships, and structure a career guidance program that really does help people gain the clarity and direction they seek.
Looking back, I wish I dug a little deeper into the "how" of what I wanted to do and not let one google search discourage me from even trying. There are so many ways to approach doing work that speaks to who we are, and they don't all have to involve going back to school. The portfolio career is becoming more and more common, as is the value of upskilling.
How to build it from scratch
The truth is, everyone has experience that they can build on. Everyone also has a great deal of wisdom inside them. That, combined with the fact that we now live in a time when there are infinite ways to create a life and living means that truly, you can do anything. If you are like me and have many different interests and abilities, I recommend building a career path from scratch.
You may have some work and/or life experience under you belt at this point, and you may have a clear sense of what you do not want to be doing. This has a great deal of value, because it narrows down the options of what you would like to be doing.
If you have never really been satisfied in your previous jobs or roles, now is a great time to try something new. You might consider taking on part-time, or contract work that is a better fit for you, while you simultaneously take a certificate course to learn a new skill you've always wanted to learn. You might join a professional network and connect with other people to see how they are making a living for themselves.
The best part about building a career from scratch is that you can take your different skills and interests and turn them into multiple income streams, even if you think one has nothing to do with the other. Use the experience and network that you already have and build on it. Reach out to people, ask questions, try a bunch of different things and see which ones you enjoy the most. What are you excited to be spending your time on?
As I said earlier, gone are the days where we work at one job until we retire with a full pension. I believe that the future belongs to the brave ones who are willing to get creative, think outside the box, and be who they really are. If that's you, now is the time to build it. The world is waiting.