Finding Your Career Path

“What do you want to be when you grow up?” Remember that? I hated being asked that question. Granted, I disliked it most when I was in my teens, because well, what teen wants to think about that? And when I was a kid, I was sure I was going to hoist the Stanley Cup or hit a home run in Game 7, as kids are wont to think.

Truth is, I really wasn’t sure, even as I entered my last year of college. But fortunately, I had a job locked up before graduation. I had done alot of work with people with disabilities and took a job as the Assistant Director a group home. A year later, I found myself in Washington, DC working for a state facility with a similar population of people. But my role had morphed; I was now doing Public Relations and Volunteer Recruiting for the facility I worked for.

I really enjoyed that job. I interacted with community groups. It was a social role, a extrovert’s dream. And I was still helping out an underserved portion of the population that I cared a great deal about. But something was missing. I started to think about getting out of my field. That was the easy part. To do what, what a much better question. I was 24 and didn’t exactly have the means to just not work and “take some time” to figure out my next move.

I wound up realizing that for me to be happy in a job I needed it to have a few key components:

  • A mission with doing some good at its core
  • A good salary with potential for my future
  • Low bureaucracy
  • A job that had some competitive nature to it

Above all, I was getting people to come and volunteer their time for free. Naturally I figured I could do this if I was paying them as well. So I began applying to jobs for recruiters. I did some recruiting in college for groups I worked with and my fraternity. Long story short, here I am 14 years later, still in the recruiting business. It’s afforded me happiness, growth, and something to continually fuel my competitive spirit. It’s pushed me to my limits and had yielded me some amazing experiences. Of course, as I’ve gotten a bit older, my career changes are more subtle now: within my field, and more so these are tweaks to what type of work I do, rather than career overhauls.

So in figuring out what you want to do with your career, you need to step back and establish what really drives you. Seems vague, right? Try to narrow down the decision by breaking things down to manageable chunks. Specifically:

  • What am you passionate about?
  • What motivates you at work? Stability, Compensation, Pressure?
  • Do you thrive in environments with process or those where process is secondary to action?
  • Company Size – Fortune 100 or Startup – Think back to the process of your decision on what college you was going to attend.
  • Is the industry one where you have a long term future, even if it is with different companies?

“Doing work you love” is more important than “doing work”. So take some time to think about what is truly most important to you. Consult people you trust, and take their thoughts into consideration as well. Sometimes focusing more about what you want in a job provides a better result than focusing only on the job search itself.

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