This is the dreaded question. What do you want to be when you grow up? The answer is easy when you are a kid. My kids want to be the following: Author, Illustrator, Video Game Designer, Garbage Man, Pilot, and Batman.
If you have a choice to be Batman, take it. Otherwise; you’ll have to face reality like the rest of us and choose a career. But what is right for you? Here are the steps that will help you to discover what you want to be:
- Make a list of things you like to do
- Make a list of things you are good at
- Make a list of things you don’t like to do
- Compare lists
- Use a job search engine to look for jobs using your lists as key words
- Develop the skills that you are lacking
- Continue to discover throughout your career
Things you like
Start with a list of things you like to do. No one else will look at this list, so write anything down. Specific items will be more useful than general items. Do you like History class? What specifically about history do you like? Do you like to write papers? Do you like digging into the past? Do you like figuring out why people do what they do? Do you just like the teacher?
Dig deep in your topics to figure out exactly what it is you like. This can be hobbies, specific skills, specific activities, or anything.
Things you are good at
Now make a list of all the things you are good at. This will guide you down a path to understand what direction to take.
Keep in mind that if you aren’t good at something, but you like it a lot, you can develop the skill until you can add it to the list of things you are good at.
Things you don’t like
Work necessarily entails doing some things that you don’t like; but, if you hate talking to people, you should not look for careers in sales.
Use this list to really figure out what it is you don’t like. Dig deep on each item and figure out what it is you don’t like about it. Do you hate math? Do you only dislike it because you aren’t great at it? It is OK to dislike things, everyone has different preferences, just be open minded about why you don’t like things. (I sometimes said that I didn’t like painting. I actually love making art, it is just an area that I have to develop.)
All of these lists are fluid, and changing. You aren’t locking yourself into a position, you are just discovering at this point.
Match up the first two lists. What things are you good at, and also really like to do. There should be a handful of items there that will give you a great starting point on what you want to be when you grow up.
What rose to the top for you? If you don’t like your answers, you can always go back and make a change to your original lists. (Economists have a joke, we always think we are right because if we thought we were wrong, we would just change our opinion so that our new opinion was right.)
Open a job search engine. (Indeed, Monster). Use your matching list as search terms. If you haven’t had a ‘real’ job yet, you might not qualify for a lot of jobs, but you don’t worry about that yet. You should notice a pattern. A lot of jobs with the skills you are good at can be categorized into a few different buckets.
I don’t know what your buckets are, but try to figure out the patterns. If the same job title keeps showing up, it could be an indication for you.
Open up the jobs, and see what other skills are required. Straight out of High School, or College, you may not be able to get your dream job at the perfect company. That is OK. Figure out what skills it is going to take to get that job. Start a new list of these skills. This is where you need to focus your efforts so that you can get that dream job.
Check back with your list of dislikes and make sure that there aren’t glaring dislikes on the jobs you are targeting. There may be one or two, and you may just have to deal with them as you prepare for your dream job. Just go in with your eyes wide open.
If you are still in school, start taking classes or participating in activities that will develop the skills you are lacking.
If you are working, try adding additional activities to your current job that will give you the experiences you need to land your next dream job.
Don’t stop discovering. Once you have your dream job, your career isn’t over. We all change and develop as we grow up. Keep adapting your lists as you grow, and always be looking out for your dream.
You are the strategy officer for your career. Make it great.