Your work life takes up a good portion of your day, every day.
While salary and possibility for advancement are important considerations, it is important to remember that personal enjoyment and fulfillment are also part of the career-search calculus. If you are dreading going to work each day, it may be time to look at your job position and determine if this opportunity will bring you the joy and advancement you desire and deserve in the workplace. You will be infinitely more driven if you are doing work you are excited about, it will reflect in your work, and your superiors will take note of that.
Finding the right career path can be a tricky feat. To get you started on your journey I’ve created a few helpful tips that you can follow in your own life, and I’ve shared a bit of my journey as well to give some perspective on the tips I’ve mapped out for all of you!
CREATE A LIST OF HOBBIES AND INTERESTS
You could potentially develop one of these into a career. Loving what you do will make your experience more enjoyable—and you might not even feel like it’s work!
I did not take the most conventional route when I embarked on my career-building journey. I was accepted into one of the top universities in Boston following my high school graduation, but due to financial strains and my general indecisive nature about choosing a major, I decided to defer my acceptance and try out the working world instead. I looked at my hobbies and interests—things that I enjoyed doing in my free time that may also translate toward a passion that I could build on a more professional level in order to determine what I should do next.
BUILD OFF OF THE LIST
Once you’ve identified your hobbies and interests, create another list of possible job positions you could hold that would fulfill these interests in a professional setting. If you’re outdoorsy, look at jobs in parks or garden centers in your area that might provide you with the outdoor time you crave. Have a passion for hair and makeup? Check your local salons to see if they’re hiring! Even a seasonal or temporary position can get your foot in the door and help you develop connections that will grow your career even further.
I have always enjoyed reading and love books more than most other worldly possessions, so working in a book store seemed like a natural selection that should go on my Possible Career Path List. I have been a bit of a tomboy for the better part of my life, and so I thought that perhaps working outside in some capacity would be enjoyable as well. I also knew that I had an overwhelming passion to help others, so volunteering or working in a position that would provide good to others seemed like another natural choice in my brain. And once I had my Possible Career Path List comprised, I set forth into the world of applications and resumes and got myself out there as much and as frequently as I possibly could.
REVIEW YOUR RESUME
Make sure that the attributes you think make you most qualified/most appealing for a position are highlighted in a way that will be eye-catching to future employers. If you want a receptionist position, structure your resume around the skills you’ve gained in previous job positions that will be applicable to the job you are trying to acquire (i.e. answering the phone, making copies, including your WPM in a Skills section within your resume).
GET A FEEL FOR IT
Once you’ve gotten your feet wet in a new position, determine if that industry is the right fit for you and if you would enjoy working in that particular industry or in that specific position long-term. If you feel like you aren’t 100% satisfied in your chosen position or field, you can absolutely look toward other opportunities that might fit your personality and skillset in a more productive way.
Even with my determination, the process wasn’t easy. I was entering the workforce in a time where the economy was not strong and job opportunities were hard to come by. The summer after I graduated from high school I worked on a State Senate campaign for a candidate whom I grew to admire for his work ethic. But I found that I didn’t enjoy being involved in politics—I didn’t like the environment that surrounded a campaign and I made the decision to use the skills that I had gained there in another position that would better suit my personal morals. It took me longer than I had hoped it would to find another position after the campaign ended, but I finally settled on a job working at the counter for a new sandwich shop that opened up down the street from my house. I quickly learned, however, that while I enjoyed the customer service aspect of the job, I was not keen on all the rules and regulations that came along with working in the food industry. So, food industry jobs, nixed right off the list! Finding the right career path for you will take a lot of trial and error situations and an abundance of patience, but it will absolutely pay off in the long run.
GAIN THE RIGHT EXPERIENCE
Be sure that with any new position you may accept, you are personally gaining something from the experience. Working for an employer is a two-way street and you want to be sure that you are gaining the skills necessary to be successful in your own personal goals, not just within the parameters of your job for that company. Highlight the skills that will be most beneficial to you in your dream job, like building online orders for customers or learning Excel for a possible office position, and ensure that any position you accept will help you enhance those skills as you’re working toward your long-term goals.
Later down the career-search road, I decided to work for a florist, and I immediately fell in love. I truly enjoyed getting my hands dirty in the soil, watering and maintaining the plants, building bouquets for people to give to their loved ones. It was incredibly relaxing and rewarding to be out in the sunshine on warm New England days. I ran into some unfortunate issues with a coworker and had to leave the position, but I knew in the back of my mind that I wanted to work toward recreating that positive experience in a similar position in the future. I was constantly looking for a job that would bring me joy and also provide me room to grow, no pun intended.
I briefly worked at a law firm as a secretary and online blogger/content writer one summer a few years back. The knowledge I gained was invaluable, and I loved being able to write every single day and exercise my passion for writing in a professional way. But I didn’t like sitting down for eight hours a day, five days a week. I have found that I work best when I am able to be up and about—when I am able to use my hands and accomplish something and work hard. I missed being tired at the end of the work day because I was using my muscles and my brain to accomplish something (the way that I had felt working at the florist) and so I knew then that working in an office wasn’t the right fit for me. If I hadn’t allowed myself to try that out, though, I would have never known what path I should be walking down.
BE KIND TO YOURSELF
It’s important to remember that you need to be easy on yourself through this process. Not every job will be great and not every experience will be rewarding, but if you remind yourself that everything you are embarking on is helping you grow, you will have the patience and confidence you need to continue working toward your goals. Listen to your gut instincts and ensure that you are doing what you really want to be doing. Each new experience is another opportunity to learn something different!
I was finally able to accomplish my Number One Job Goal when I started working at Barnes and Noble. Working in a bookstore was an absolute dream come true. I loved being able to discuss my favorite books with customers, to gain suggestions from them as well in order to try new things. I loved being able to unpack boxes of newly published books. I loved being able to put those books into a neat display around the store—I loved being able to buy coffee on my shift and talk to my coworkers and I loved being able to look around at the end of the day and know that the work that I had done was visible to others. My coworkers became a second family to me. They helped me and encouraged me and made me a better worker and a better person. It was the most gratifying professional experience I had had to date. I learned the importance of truly loving what you do every single day.
LEARN AS MUCH AS YOU CAN
Learn from your coworkers no matter what job you’re in—especially from those employees who have been in their position for a long time. You don’t always have to get along with everyone you work with, but they can be a wealth of knowledge and support as you’re finding your way through a new environment and while you’re learning new skills. Ask them for tips on how to accomplish a specific task in a faster, more efficient way. Ask for suggestions on how to best deal with difficult customers. If there is something you need assistance with, look to your coworkers or managers to help you be as successful as you possibly can be.
PHONE A FRIEND…OR A STRANGER!
If you feel like you are still floundering to find the right career path for yourself, ask a friend or family member or even a coworker to help you on your journey. Ask them what they feel your strengths and weaknesses are and how you can use each of those things to secure the future that you want for yourself. Never be afraid to ask for help or to see if someone you know can help you with your job search. People will know other people who may be able to help you on your way toward accomplishing your goals. If you are intrigued by a certain employer or field of work—reach out via email or phone call to see if they are hiring or if you could simply submit your resume for future consideration. I have sent countless emails to museums and florists detailing my previous experience asking if they had any open positions that I could apply for. You would be surprised by how many people will be willing to help you once you have the courage to ask!
JUST KEEP SWIMMING
Whatever happens, keep moving forward. Build your resume. Build your skillset. Ask for help whenever you need it and take risks when you feel like they will pay off.
Loving what I do every day motivates me to work harder and to become the best employee that I can possibly be. It affords me greater opportunities for advancement. My next professional adventure is bringing me back into the floral and plant world that I loved so much, and the brief tenure I spent at the florist has opened a wealth of opportunities for me in this new job. Instead of simply securing a cashier position, my prior knowledge and experience has allowed me to obtain a better job opportunity for myself and I will now be working in the greenhouse instead. I will be able to learn new things, build my resume, and continue working toward creating a career for myself in which I am working as my own boss on my own terms, building my own level of success.
Whether you have a college degree, prior work experience, or no experience at all, you can take the steps necessary to become successful in any career path of your choosing. Never be afraid to apply for a job because you feel like you are not qualified enough. If you are able to express yourself in a confident and honest manner, you will be able to secure positions for yourself that you may not think you could acquire otherwise. Never be afraid of trying new things. Never be afraid of someone saying no to you. You are smart enough. You are driven enough. You can build any career for yourself through any professional endeavor you may embark upon. You don’t have to settle for doing something long-term that isn’t progressing you toward the life and career that you want to have for yourself.
You may face some difficult times during your journey. If you’re actively pursuing a job or career without an assured track, you may need to make some sacrifices in terms of lifestyle depending on what you’ve already grown used to. It’s important to remember, however, that the difficulties won’t stay difficult forever. Your first job may not be your dream job—focusing on paying your college tuition bills or rent may mean that you need to accept a position you’re less than crazy about, but if you continue to stay positive and passionate while making your lists and assessing your options, you can create a future where your work is fulfilling for you.