3 Secrets to Help You Discover Your Career Path and Find Your Life’s Purpose
How often do you sit down and think about who you are, what you want out of life and your career, what success means to you, and try to come up with a plan to get there? I am excited to share with you these 3 secrets to help you discover your career path and find your life’s purpose.
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If you are anything like me I had it all in my head. I didn’t write it down, create vision statements, build dream job vision boards, or know exactly what my goals were…I was going to school, completing courses, and knew what I wanted to do upon graduation, but there was no thought as to how I was going to get there.
Everything turned out okay, but I feel like a lot of the stress that I had as a student was centered around thoughts of where am I going with all of this? What is my life’s purpose? Is my career and purpose in life one in the same? Are they two different things?
The thoughts continued well after graduating from university and entering the workforce. When I started working full-time I realized I did not want to pursue the career I went to university for. So that’s when I had to go back to the drawing board, do some soul searching, and look at what options were available to me! Want to read my full story as to how I entered my career in Human Resources? Take a look at this post.
Do you have some of the same feelings? Are all your plans in your head or are they on paper? Do you know what career path you want to pursue? Or are you stuck and looking for answers?
Well, my friend, I have tips and answers for you!
And a lot of great questions that will help you explore yourself and discover your life’s purpose, find a job you are passionate about, and create a plan to help you establish your career goals.
Whether you are a high school student, a college student, or a seasoned professional looking for more out of their career or to make a career shift, I am sure these tips and questions will help you through your career exploration. Moreover, I hope they help you assess if your career path and life’s purpose go hand in hand or play very different roles in your life.
What is Career Discovery?
Career discovery is about connecting your characteristics, traits, and preferences to opportunities. Everyone is different and therefore everyone will have their unique path.
Your personality, interests, values, and goals will all play a role in finding your way in a career that you enjoy.
Here is an example of how your values and interests can tie in, and how important it is to be selective with choosing career paths and industries that you should work in. Bonus, by considering this, it will also increase your chance of getting hired when applying for jobs.
Let’s say you are currently working towards a diploma/degree in a Human Resources program and start applying to entry-level jobs in HR. If you are an ocean life ambassador and passionate environmentalist, would it make sense to apply for jobs at a plastics or chemical manufacturer?
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Your values will clash, and you won’t be happy. That is a bit of an extreme example to prove a point, but it is important to consider!
Now let’s say that you enjoy music, you play the piano and currently teach piano lessons. You have also previously judged piano competitions. Whaaaaat the Royal Conservatory of Music is hiring an HR Intern? What a match! And you’ll be able to align your interests on your resume…
See what I am doing here? An HR job within an industry you love AND have experience in!!!
If you were applying for the job at the plastics company none of your interests would be relevant to the job/ company. Even worse, your lack of enthusiasm may come through in an interview.
You may not be happy working in a job or even working for companies that don’t help you embrace your interests or align with your reasons for working in the first place.
The secrets to helping you discover your career path and finding your life’s purpose lies in:
- Defining your characteristics, interests, and preferences
- Clarifying what success means to you
- Establishing what is your WHY – what is your reason for working?
Now, let’s alleviate some career stress and anxiety by digging into and discovering more about you, and then we’ll connect all the dots!
Define Your Characteristics, Interests, and Preferences
Understanding yourself and what you enjoy doing is important when determining what career path you will enjoy. In addition to enjoying what you do, if you naturally have the abilities and skills for given jobs it will make it easier for you. However, just because something comes naturally to you, it doesn’t always mean it is the right path for you.
In addition to defining this yourself, it may also be helpful to take a career test to help you discover your career path. There are a lot of great tests out there that will help you discover your work personality and strengths to connect you with career options. If you are at a point where you don’t have a clue what you want to do, then taking a test is a great place to start. I love the CareerFitter test, they have both a free basic test and a premium report where you can access everything. If you have previously taken a test, I suggest retaking one every few years. As you evolve and change, there is a good chance that the suggested professions may change as well!
What I believe you should do is sit down and complete the statements and answer the questions I have posed below. These may seem like simple ones, but they’re important to help you through self-discovery.
- My interests, hobbies, extracurriculars are… I enjoy them because….
- My strengths are…
- My strengths as perceived by others are… (ask friends, family, teachers, managers – it may be very different than how you see yourself)
- The characteristics that best describe me are…
- In my previous/current job(s) I have enjoyed…
- In my previous/current job(s) I have disliked…
- Do you work better independently, as part of a team, and/or cross collaboratively?
- Would your peers consider you a leader? A people leader or project leader…?
- Are you interested in leading people, leading projects, or both?
- Do you prefer being sedentary or up and about?
Want to write your answers down on paper? Download these worksheets!
By answering these questions, you’ll gain a better understanding of yourself which will help you discover your career path.
What is Your Definition of Success?
I believe success and career planning go hand in hand. You need to know and understand what is important to YOU and what is going to make you feel like you have succeeded in your career goals. We’ll refocus on career discovery, just let me go on this tangent for a minute, and let’s answer some difficult questions.
What is YOUR definition of success? Success is completely subjective!!
I am not asking for your parents’ version (I’m 36 years old and my dad is still trying to tell me I should go to law school), your friends’ version, your work colleagues version, your manager’s version, or even what gurus are telling you.
My favorite success quote is by Michelle Obama, “success isn’t about how much money you make, it’s about the difference you make in people’s lives”. This is her view of success. And I personally believe the same to be true.
If you believe that success is becoming a millionaire and that you will feel successful when you get there financially – then you do you! You need to create your own success statement and have a clear definition of when you get there. So the wheels stop turning and you can FEEL and see that you have reached your success-related goal.
Everyone’s view of success is different and over time everyone’s view of success changes. If I would have asked myself this question when I was in university, it would be different. Even five years ago it would have been different!
Now, as an HR Professional and mom of 3, success to me is:
- knowing that my family and friends are loved, cared for, and supported;
- making a difference in my community by helping and giving to others;
- working in a position where I am a valued contributor (job title doesn’t matter);
- and being financially comfortable/stable.
So, let me ask you…
What is YOUR definition of success?
As you try to answer this question, think through these additional questions to ensure you are coming up with your definition.
- How is your happiness tied to your success?
- What are you most proud of yourself for?
- Is your definition of success tied to any financial achievements or personal accomplishments?
- Is your view of success influenced by your parents, peers, teachers, managers, society? If so, how?
- How will you know when you have succeeded?
- Do you anticipate your definition of success to change?
Now that we have talked about what will make you feel successful, let’s circle back to how all of this ties into career discovery!
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By knowing what success means to you and understanding that your definition is completely subjective should help you determine your purpose. It is important to determine your why’s in life and your reason for working while working on a career plan.
I mentioned earlier that my definition of success in university and post-university were different, I also mentioned that as a professional now with 14+ years in the workforce – it has changed again. I can only assume that it will continue to evolve as I do. Once upon a time, I wanted to be a Chief Human Resources Officer, but now….titles and salary don’t matter as much. I want a comfortable life (financially), but I also really want to enjoy family life. I choose balance, I no longer choose a career. Not because of gender inequalities, not because I can’t get there, but because I want to pick my kids up after school and not be stressed about meetings running late, working on vacations and days off, etc. I choose family.
Understanding Your WHY
What is your WHY for working? Knowing WHY you need or want to work can also help you in developing your plan.
Over the years I have coached so many students, new grads, and professionals in establishing a career path and developing their careers. Different people have different reasons for working and understanding YOUR reason is key to finding your life purpose as it relates to your career choices.
I have met a lot of people who simply work for a paycheck and don’t care to progress their career, change jobs, or leave a company they work for. It’s not because they are uneducated; it’s not because they are lazy; and it’s not because they don’t have the knowledge, skills, and abilities to accelerate their careers. More often than not, these individuals also receive stellar performance reviews and managers wish they could promote them! However, they feel their career does not define them. They are content with what they do as it financially provides them with the basic needs they need to live and/or support their family. They are happy in their careers, they see themselves as successful, and have found “themselves”.
On the other hand, I have coached individuals who need to see their careers progress, change, and evolve.
And then there are others who work for a cause. They aren’t working for the paycheck; they will struggle themselves financially working in a position that pays very little because of their passion.
No reasons are wrong, and one is not better than the other.
With all of that in mind, ask yourself…
“What is MY why?”
Make money? Enough money to get by or significantly more? To work for an initiative that you are very passionate about? Is it something you enjoy doing (as in you’d continue to do it even if no one paid you)? Is it for others to see you as “successful”?
You might be sitting there saying, well, I work to make money…but, is it more than that? What kept you reading this article? Are you looking for ways to make MORE money or ways to develop yourself?
Determine your why…this may help you identify if you are actually looking to add more to your life in general (not career-related) or just more money if you are not in a spot where you are financially comfortable.
In my opinion, the secrets to helping you discover your career path and finding your life’s purpose lies in a combination of self-reflection to understand your characteristics, interests, and preferences, coupled with the use of taking career tests. Coupling your intuition with test results can help validate your thoughts and provide you with more direction on what jobs are right for you. By clarifying what success means to you and establishing what you need to achieve to make you feel successful will help ease your mind – especially for those who always feel like they need to do or be more. Finally, understanding your reasons for working will further help you determine your life purpose. Maybe your life purpose lays outside of your career, maybe they are the one in same – only you can determine that!