Do you ever ask yourself ‘Am I in the wrong career?’
Are you embarrassed about telling others what you do for a living?
Do you dread the thought of doing the same thing for the next 20 years?
Do you feel trapped in your career? scared to try something different?
Do you know what you like to spend your time doing, but don’t see how you can turn that into a job that pays?
Are you afraid changing careers might affect your lifestyle? i.e. what your friends think of you, or put a strain on your relationships?
If you’ve answered YES to some of the above questions, then maybe you are in need of some Career Inspiration? Read the below 11 tips on How to Find the Right Career:
Am I in the Wrong Career Tip #1: Talking to people who know you best
Your closest friends and family will know you better than anyone. If you have been doing a job that makes you unhappy, then talk to these people.
Tell them what it is about the job that makes you unhappy. Tell them what jobs you think you might be more interested in. Seek out their opinion.
I’m not a huge fan of working in finance and at various junctures close friends of mine have told me thought I’d be better doing x, y, and z.
They will know what your strengths are and have ideas on what jobs might suit you best.
Ex – Colleagues:
Is there a person you used to work with closely whose opinion you value?
If so, go talk to them and see what they say. They will have seen how you operate in a professional environment and can give you ideas on what you might be best suited to.
I say ‘ex’ as be wary of asking senior people in your current organisation. They might not tell you the truth just so you stay with the company.
Sometimes it’s difficult for you to see the wood for the trees when you are wondering how to find the right career. For those close to you, the dots can often be easier to join up.
Am I in the Wrong Career Tip #2: Interviewing people about their jobs
It’s very hard to know all the career opportunities out there from looking at job sites. How you really find out is by asking people about their jobs.
The more people you talk to the more knowledge and ideas you will get. The more chats you have, the more connections you will make.
Interview a friend about their job. What do they like and not like about their job? Ask them if they know anyone else who would be worth interviewing?
You may not be interested in many of the things they do in their job. However, if you interview enough people there will be things that do appeal and you can explore these further.
Also, by chatting to several people about what they do, you will quickly find out what you don’t want to do. This will help narrow your focus.
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Am I in the Wrong Career Tip #3: LinkedIn
LinkedIn is invaluable. I use it in the following ways to find career inspiration:
To research possible career paths:
When looking at my career path, I will ask myself would I like to be ‘Finance Director’ or a ‘Project Manager’?
Then I’ll search for that role, and look at 20 or so people who are doing these roles. I then write down the similarities on an excel spreadsheet:
– Have they all got the same professional qualification?
– Have they all worked for a similar type of company?
– Did they typically stay with the same company or have they worked in a variety of different companies?
– How many years qualified were they when they reached that level?
– What type of roles have they done?
– What skills / exposures did they get?
– Have they all worked abroad?
If you don’t know what you want to do, try the above exercise with roles you think you might like to be doing in 5 years’ time.
Then if something peaks your interest, send some of the people you researched a LinkedIn mail. Some of them won’t reply, but some of them will and they’ll give you some great insights.
Re-engineering certain roles
Lots of people basically have their whole CV on their LinkedIn page.
They have listed achievements and 5-10 responsibilities for every role they have done.
If you are interested in a type of job, then type in that job, and try to find some of these profiles. It might take you 5 or so profiles before you get a very detailed good one.
After you find a few of these profiles, make a note of the skills and experience that are needed to be a top candidate for this role.
Then critically assess whether you have these skills. If not, research how you would get them; either via internet searches or by asking someone you know in that field.
Am I in the Wrong Career Tip #4: Questions to help you uncover your purpose
For some it’s simple: work is a job, a way to pay the bills.
They get out of bed because they have to; if they don’t they won’t get paid.
For others, they see work as part of their purpose in life. They get out of bed every morning as they see each day as bringing them closer to their main goal in life.
Lots of people never find their purpose in life and just spend their time do the same things over and over again without much direction.
This is because it’s not easy to figure out what you want to do with your life. Read some of the below questions and have a think about what your answers might be:
Let’s say you are 60 and about to retire, would you have any regrets?
This is one of my favourites. I’ve worked in finance for 14 years now.
I don’t want to look back on my career when I’m 60 and say I’ve done 38 years in finance. I’d be disgusted!
If I looked back on a 38 year finance career helping to make various companies richer, I’d be the opposite of proud. I would feel like I’ve wasted my life and not given back to society in anyway.
Try to keep this question in mind when you have to make short term career decisions.
Why are you doing what you’re currently doing?
A lot of people will answer this question with ‘..because it’s a job, I have to pay the bills’, or ‘….I just fell into it’.
Try to ask yourself why are you really doing it?
Do you like the prestige of your job? or the nice salary it pays you and being able to buy nice things? or is it the interaction with people?
Are you doing it because you think it’s too late to change and do something else? Try to really get to the bottom of why you are doing what you’re doing career-wise.
What could you easily spend hours on without noticing the time go by?
This can be anything from online shopping, to reading about history, to playing video games.
Are you very good at something and don’t think anything of it because it comes naturally to you? What subject do you know a lot about without even trying?
You might say ‘I like playing video games, but how can I make money out of that’?
Maybe you don’t start a video game business yourself. Maybe you could get a job with Sony, and learn about the industry that way and then from there who knows?
If money wasn’t an issue, what would you do with your time?
If you didn’t have to worry about paying bills or working, how would you spend your days?
Would you do some charity work? Or travel? How about going back to university? Would you write a book?
Whatever your answer to this q is, why don’t you try and do it now? What is stopping you? What are you afraid of?
If you were going to work for free for the rest of your life, what would you want to do?
This is similar to the above question, but slightly different.
If you had to put 40 hours of effort every week into something, what would that be?
The answer might overlap with the answers above, a start-up, charity work, further education?
What’s something you keep telling yourself you’ll do when you retire, or when you “have the time”?
I have plans when I retire; do some charity work, travel, play golf, do some consulting, etc.
Why wait until then? Anything could happen before then, you could be hit by a bus tomorrow.
Why slog your guts out 9-5 for 40 years when you could start the things you want to do in retirement now? What are you waiting for?
Are you afraid of doing something different?
I think a lot of people stay in jobs that they don’t like, that don’t pay well because they are too scared to change.
They get comfortable and don’t want to step out of their comfort zone even though it may be good for them.
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Am I in the Wrong Career #5: Psychometric Tests
There are lots of cheap/free personality and career tests on the internet: Myers Briggs, Big Five Personality Assessment, 16 Personalities, Career Explorer etc., but I think it’s one of those areas where you pay for what you get.
I really liked Career Explorer. It’s a very thorough set of multiple-choice questions on your interests, history & goals, personality and workplace. It’s free to do and gives you approx. 10 careers you might be suited to.
However, if you pay $35 you then get a set of personalised reports which show you how your personality is best suited to different types of work.
You also get lots more than 10 career matches and reasons why you are suited to these careers. Also included are stories of how satisfied different people are in their careers, and why.
The free tests are fine, they do offer some insight.
However, for the sake of $35 I think its money well spent to get all of the above info.
With these tests, the value is in how you interpret the results. You will find the more you pay, the better quality of feedback you get.
Look at it as a future investment, when you divide whatever you pay divided by the number of years spent working – it’s peanuts.
Am I in the Wrong Career #6: Job Sites
One exercise you can do is the ‘NYU Career Tracks Exercise’.
- Go on one of the big jobsites, i.e. indeed.com or monster.com, or the equivalent in your country.
- Spend some time clicking on some of the job categories and try to find 50 job advertisements that look interesting to you.
- Put the job titles of these down in an excel spreadsheet and comment beside them why you found them interesting. Was it the organisation or the responsibilities of the job? the size of the company? or maybe the industry?
You should then start to see common themes/patterns occurring and you now have an idea of what companies and roles interest you.
Am I in the Wrong Career Tip #7: Career Plan
Making a career plan can be a good way to get your thoughts down on paper and identify actionable steps to help you progress your career.
- Start by ascertaining where are you now. Honestly assess what your current role is now. What are your job prospects? Where is your career headed if you stay in your current job? Will you turn into your boss? Are you happy?
- Now write down what you enjoy doing? What are your strengths? Ask other people what your strengths are to give you some perspective. What are you good at? What do you do in your spare time that you will happily spend hours doing?
- Next, think about where do you want to be in the future? Based on the info in the previous step, think about what you ultimately want to do for a job? What do you want to be doing in 5, 10 years time? Forget about any limitations, think as BIG as you can.
- Once you have identified where you want to get to, do some research on the internet and list out all the things you need to do to make it happen. Put these in order of what needs to happen first.
- These goals should be specific, realistic, tangible things that you can measure your progress against. Look at how you break these goals down further into action steps which you can start ticking off and completing.
- You may find that you struggle to complete some of your action steps. Think about why you are having difficulty. What is stopping you completing these tasks? Can you remove some of these obstacles or distractions? What can you do differently to make completing these action steps easier?
- You should now have an end goal or outcome with a series of smaller short term and long term goals identified to achieve your intended outcome.
- Remember that plans change and evolve, so keep re-assessing where you are and where you want to be. Don’t be afraid to modify the plan to reflect changed aspirations or circumstances.
Am I in the Wrong Career Tip #8: Listen to Ted Talks
There are lots of Ted Talks on Careers you can listen to. Go onto www.ted.com, and search for ‘Career’, and you will find specially curated playlists of Ted talks about careers.
These talks will be some of the most viewed ted talks that are out there with several million views each. Two ones I really liked are:
Scott Dinsmore: How to Find Work you Love
A great talk about how anything is possible if you surround yourself with the right people. Scott was working a corporate job which he hated.
He quit and set up Live Your Legend, a community dedicated to helping people find and do the work they love. It has grown to a community of 65,000 in 65 countries around the world.
Tragically Scott passed away in 2015 climbing Kilimanjaro.
This talk has been viewed over 6m times. I think he definitely made the impact he was looking for when he left his corporate job.
Fair play to him.
Larry Smith: Why You Will Fail to Have a Great Career
Larry is an economist with a dry wit. He talks about how people make excuses that stop them doing what they want to do in their careers, and ultimately how life gets in the way.
It’s a theme that kept coming up again and again from the 100 people interviewed in my book ‘1000 Years of Career Advice’.
In your 20’s you are too busy having a good time to think about your career. In your 30’s you are saving for a mortgage, you get married, you have kids.
Life has a habit of getting in the way! Again, a pretty popular talk with over €6m views!
Am I in the Wrong Career #9: Listen to Podcasts
Podcasts are a great source of inspiration. If it weren’t for podcasts, I wouldn’t have written my book ‘1000 Years of Career Advice’. My favourite career podcast is:
It interviews over 100 people on everything from turning a blog into a business, to how to run a coffee shop. The episodes are short, insightful and full of good tips.
Often, we want to do something, but we just don’t know the first steps to take to move towards that outcome.
Listening to someone who has done it already can be that first step.
Am I in the Wrong Career Tip #10: Talk to a Career Coach
Before paying money for a career coach, ask yourself what you are trying to get out of it? Can you get whatever it is from a person you already know without paying a stranger for it?
Working with a career coach can have many benefits:
- help you understand what careers you might be good at or best suited to
- assist in settling career goals and putting a plan in place to achieve those goals
- ensure your CV, story and branding are the best it can be
- help you build connections to progress your career
- make sure you are polished for interviews
You need to ask yourself could I get some of the above help from reaching out to people on LinkedIn, or from asking my friends/family/colleagues?
I think #’s 1 and 3 you should ask people you know before you look to employ a career coach.
However, a good career coach will see dozens of people in the exact same situation as you. They will be in a great position to help and really accelerate your career search.
They can tell you were you are going wrong and give you an indication of how you size up against your competition.
If you do start working with a career coach, you must ensure you are impressed by and respect the coach. Don’t just settle for someone who is not that good.
Also, look for someone with experience of the field you are in or trying to get into. They will be able to add much more value.
Enlisting the help of a career coach can be particularly helpful when:
- you’re stuck, or at an impasse in your career and it’s getting you down
- you are sending out cv after cv and not getting anywhere
- You are attempting a major career change. They will have helped people to make similar changes and will know contacts in various industries, etc
Am I in the Right Career #11: Read some Career Inspiration stories
Career Shifters has a very good section of their website that gives you examples of people who have switched careers. There are lots of different disciplines, and some really random career changes!
Half the battle in figuring out how to find the right career is getting inspiration from seeing someone who has done it successfully.
If you found the above post on ‘Am I in the Wrong Career’ helpful and want more, check out the advice of 100 graduates 10 years out of university in my book ‘1000 Years of Career Advice’.
You can get the free ebook version here.