What to do if you have too many career ideas
Many people who come asking for help changing careers are stuck not knowing which path is right for them and they want to find their way forward. Some of them have absolutely no clue where to start and I suggest that they look at their interests; while others already have a few ideas at the back of their mind. What keeps them stuck is having to choose just one and it’s hard. If this is you, you’re probably thinking: How can I pick just one when all my options sound good? What if I pick the wrong one and it costs me time and money?
Here are some tips that will help you get unstuck:
1. What is essential to your fulfillment?
Every job, no matter how meaningful and fun, will have aspects to it that are less so. You will find the motivation and the resources to overcome these challenges more easily if your chosen career has the essential qualities that contribute to your fulfilment. What is at the top of your list of things that make you happy in your work?
…having a certain lifestyle? If so, then you want to look for a career that helps you balance out your family life with your work, and with your personal needs. For example, a career that allows you to spend more time with your loved ones, would make you happier than one which requires long hours.
…giving to others and contributing to society? People for whom service/ dedication to a cause is at the top of their priority list get a kick out of helping others more than the average person would. They have usually (but not necessarily) benefitted themselves from the help of a a teacher/ counsellor/ helper figure and now they want to inspire others the same way.
… having a strong sense of security? This means that for you it’s particularly important to have an employer you can rely on, that gives you stability.
…the excitement of setting up your own business? If so, maybe being an entrepreneur is at the heart of your fulfilment. This means more than just having a strong need for independence – people who have this drive like seeing new opportunities and they’re not afraid to take risks to implement them.
…having independence? If you like doing things your own way, deciding when and how you work, you need to look for a career that gives you that above all else.
Feel free to add your own needs for fulfillment. Just be honest with yourself and choose 2-3 main ones. Then compare each of your career options against them. How do they measure up?
2.Test drive your ideas
It’s easy to get stuck in your head imagining how amazing it would be if you were the CEO of a start-up, a psychologist, a photographer or a… insert exciting job title here. While following your passion is something I recommend to anyone who would listen, the truth is that doing something just for fun as opposed to turning it into a source of income can be very different things.
Let’s say photography is one of your passions. You take pretty good shots of nature and you’re received praise for your work. But what if the day-to-day reality of actually owning a photography business (finding clients, spending hours editing shots, taking 1000s of shots before you can find that winning photo, doing your own taxes) is quite different from the story in your mind?
This is where test driving your ideas can help you decide which one of your interests would work for you as a career. One of the best ways to do that is to find people who do the jobs you’re interested in and talk to them. It’s true that you can find descriptions of various jobs online but they don’t explain the day to day of doing that work or how someone with your personality and job requirements would feel there. Until you talk to someone who can tell you how it feels to be doing their job, there will always be some doubt at the back of your mind.
Here are some things you might want to ask them:
How did you get into this field? What did you study?
What do you love most about what you do?
What do you dislike the most?
How stressful is your job?
What is the career progression for someone in your field?
Another benefit of talking to someone who is already doing the job you’re interested in is that you might learn from them ways to get into that field; they could recommend workshops, courses or volunteering opportunities.
3.Imagine you won the lottery…
…and you didn’t have to work again, ever. What would you choose to do? You might travel the world, buy yourself a new house and a car/ boat/ airplane (!). But once you’d be done with all that, how would you spend your time? What is the most exciting option from your list of possibilities? Which career would you pursue even if you didn’t have to? It might not be the easiest one to get into, the cheapest or the most prestigious, but it is the one that will make you happy to get up in the morning and look forward to your day.
If you ask yourself “what would I love to do?” and you know the answer deep down inside but keep finding reasons why you shouldn’t do it, it might be that there’s a part of you that’s sabotaging you. You can easily identify it because it sounds like: “You can’t do this”, “It’s too hard”, “You’re not talented enough”, “You’re never going to earn an income from this”. This is your critical voice speaking and, if you let it, it will bring you down. It sees everything through the lens of fear and its main message is that it’s best to stick with what you’ve got now no matter how bad it is. It does that because it can only see one point of view: the pessimistic one, the one that focuses on your weaknesses instead of your strengths. The best way to beat it?! You need to remind yourself why you’re making this change, why you can be successful and why you should go for it.
If you’ve tried all my ideas above and you’re still undecided, just remember one thing: You don’t have to stick to one option forever! It may be that all your career ideas are exciting. You may have found that theoretically you could turn all your passions into a career. You might be what Barbara Sher called a ‘Renaissance Soul’ and Marci Alboher referred to a ‘Slash Worker’. That’s ok, pursue all of them! In order to make this scenario work, you will have to narrow down your options temporarily. This will prevent you from getting overwhelmed. So start with one idea, the easiest one, maybe the most practical one. Remember, this doesn’t mean you’ll have to give up on the others. Once you’ve taken steps towards one career, you can start to figure out how to implement the others too.
Narrowing down your options is not going to solve all your problems, but it will help you get to the point where you’ll take action.