What are your plans after graduation?
I cried every single time that question came up in a conversation. I was fresh out of high school, juggling two part-time jobs (I know), and I was still unsure about the whole University thing. Isn’t it wild how ingrained this kind of pressure is in us? From the moment we start school, we’re under pressure to know what we want to be when we grow up. But then, when we finally “grown up,” we realize there are still so many questions: what kind of apartment do I rent? Where am I supposed to live? How am I supposed to land the “dream job?”
The gap between our teens and the 30s is this embarrassing yet beautiful time of self-discovery called our 20s. It’s during this time that we’re taking ambitious steps to find ourselves, to learn more about our personalities, and to figure out what we want to do for the rest of our lives. While it may be scary, these are the years in which we set the tone for who we want to become and what goals we plan to set for our futures.
While I still didn’t know what kind of roles I wanted to land in a company, I decided to start submitting my application all over the place until something happened. I landed my first corporate job as an intern in the Human Resources Department. I’ve learned more about myself in these three months than in any classroom setting.
Sometimes, when we step into roles that we may not necessarily be excited about, we have to ask ourselves if they fit right, or if they benefit us in any way towards the end goal. Here are a few questions that I have considered throughout my career that have helped me navigate opportunities and build my self-confidence as a professional in any field:
Do my skills/talents match up to this career path? It’s one thing for me to enjoy cooking as a hobby, but it’s another thing to actually have the talent to whip up homemade Jollof rice in the kitchen. We all have hobbies that we enjoy and talents that we’re phenomenal about. And when we really have a knack for something, we’re going to gain a reputation for those things.
As we apply for jobs, it is important to ask ourselves this question so that we can make sure that we use our time wisely and our talents to the best of our abilities. When we’re good at something, it’s worth it! In answering this question, we can also figure out whether our current job is right. Every career opportunity teaches us what we like and what we don’t like about it. And that’s all right! In deciphering our career needs and wants, we’re one step closer to finding the right fit.
Is this career path aligned with my passions/end goals?
When given tasks align with our passions, not only do we have the excitement to get things done, but we gain so much from our roles through our daily tasks. Each task that uses our gifts makes it possible for us to improve our skills. It also empowers us to become the leading expert in our field. The last thing we want to do is spend time in a job that does not take advantage of our maximum potential. Not only can it feel like a waste of time, but it can make us feel very exhausted.
Is this career path giving me life or draining me?
Stepping into our job roles is supposed to affirm us as professionals—not burn us out! There’s a difference between being a little stressed by the busyness of life (we’ve all been there) and being overwhelmingly stressed by our jobs to the point of destruction.
When we find fulfillment in our work or career, it gives us the strength to overcome the busy days that come our way. But if a job pushes us past our stress limit and we don’t find what we’re doing to be fun, then maybe it’s time to look for a new gig. If we’re not in a place to quit or pay off, start applying for new positions—whether in the same company or elsewhere.
We can also reach out to past mentors, past coworkers, and connections to help us find a new job so that we can move on to the next thing. In the middle of waiting for a new gig, we can find or create parts of our current job that we really love. If it’s our team, if it’s a specific task, or if it’s our interactions with the people we serve, we can use our time to focus on those things and offer our time to fully engage with the parts of our jobs that are life-giving. No work experience is wasted—always there’s something to learn!
Does this career path really allow me to serve my dream audience or client well?
We all need to map our dream client out there! What’s their name, huh? Where are they hanging? What can we do about them? When we identify our dream client, it can help us figure out what roles or specific career paths we should be looking for. Having this person in mind motivates us and helps us to dream big in the right direction.
Is our current status allowing us to provide excellent service to those people? If not, we should think of new ways to connect what we do to the ideal client. We should also search for positions and career prospects that resonate the most with our ideal audience when applying for new employment in the future.
Do I feel the overall balance of my life in choosing this career path?
When all in our lives seems to be falling into place as we pursue this career path, it’s a good indication that we’ve found the right match. Our relationships, dreams, and even sleeping habits may all be made or broken by choosing the right career path. Finding a good balance in our careers allows us to feel focused and at ease. Amber Rae’s book Choose Wonder Over Worry guides you through the difference between “moving ahead” and “coming alive” in your career.
Being ambitious, I would often put myself in situations where I would spread too thinly. In my professional and personal life, I would have overcommitted, and this has created so much unnecessary tension for me. I was stressed, gaining an unhealthful weight, sucking my relationship. But when I found a sweet spot in my career—having a unique job that I could focus all my energy on—it allowed me to be fully present as a girlfriend, a friend, and a daughter.