“I’m not sure where I should be, but I know it isn’t here.”
If you’ve ever expressed confusion and dismay over finding the right career path, it’s likely that someone with the best of intentions has assured you that the most interesting people they know – some with decades more experience – are still trying to figure out what to do with their lives.
If only you could pay your student loans in personality and wit.
Considering most lending institutions prefer cash, you need a job. Even if it’s not the job you really want…whatever that is. And while you’re relieved to pay the bills and chip away at your debt, you probably harbor some version of this nagging thought: “I’m not sure where I should be, but I know it isn’t here.”
Some of us know we want to be a writer/astronaut/ballerina/accountant from the time we can verbalize it, but others need to work a bit harder to find their true calling. If an Eat, Pray, Love- style journey isn’t within your budget, here are few things you can do to find your true calling while slogging away at a less-than-fulfilling 9 to 5.
Shadow someone in another department
It’s possible that you’ve found the right field, – maybe even the right company – but you’re in the wrong position. Ask if you can work on an interdepartmental project or shadow someone with a completely different set of job responsibilities. If that’s not a go, have coffee or lunch with a colleague from another department and pick their brain. Even if these actions don’t lead to a new career, you’ll have learned something and diversified your professional network.
Ask for an informational interview
An informational interview is similar to a job interview, but the primary goal is to learn about a particular industry, company or career. Most leaders, if they have the time, will happily spend 10 to 15 minutes answering questions about their field or what it’s like to work for their company. Informational interviews can help you make decisions about switching career paths or going back to school, and they can help you be better prepared for your next round of job applications and interviews.
Network online and IRL
Whether you live in a major city or the middle of nowhere, you have dozens of networking options available to you. Are you a project manager who’s curious about UX Design? Attend an in-person meetup for UX Designers in your city. You’ll get answers to your questions and be able to assess how happy the attendees are in their chosen field. If you can’t find a local meetup, search for online forums and join career-specific groups on social media.
Dive into a non-work-related project
When’s the last time you did something, not because it was assigned to you, but because it was personally satisfying? Whether you write a short story, build a new website or launch a side business, working on a personal project can be helpful in figuring out your optimal career path. You may, for example, learn that you like working by yourself vs. in teams. Or, it may become clear that you need to be more creative on a daily basis to stay engaged. Also, personal projects can help you feel energized and motivated while you figure out the next step on your path to finding your dream gig.
Have you found your passion, or are you still working on it?
Jenessa Connor is a Brooklyn-based freelance writer and young adult author. If you don’t find her in front of her computer, check the local movie theaters and restaurants, Prospect Park or the gym at CrossFit 718.