Do you remember when the question “What do you want to be when you grow up?” sparked creativity and imagination?
Because when you’re a kid, the world is your oyster and any answer was a good answer.
But as you grew up, that question evolved into something much more daunting, didn't it?
- For the school child: “What’s your favorite subject in school?”
- For the high schooler: “What do you want to study in university?”
- For the university student: “What job would you like after you graduate?”
- For the working professional: “What do you do now?”
By the time you’re a teenager, society expects you to have something figured out — leaving you feeling like a failure when you still don’t know what career you want long after you’ve graduated.
So what’s stopping you from figuring that out once and for all? Let’s dive in.
Is it normal to not know what career you want?
In a nutshell, yes — it is totally normal.
We’ve grown up with the idea that you get a job at one company and stick with it until you retire. Your employer was responsible for your career development and you could go to grad school if you wanted to improve your skills or make a transition.
These days, careers don’t work like that. People are changing jobs every 2 years. Outside of “traditional” 9-5 jobs, more people are freelancing and working multiple jobs. On top of that, entirely new industries are popping up everywhere, including crypto, cleantech, esports, and more.
With so much change, it’s easy to feel lost or overwhelmed as you’re navigating your career. In fact, it is more common than you’d think. Millions of people are disengaged from work and about 1 in 2 people are gearing up for a career change.
8 reasons why it is so hard to find the right career
1. Your perspective is too narrow
If you’ve been in the same field for a while, maybe that’s stopping you from seeing other possible career options. Expanding what you’d like to try out may be the key to discovering a career you’d want to pursue.
A similar problem comes up if your network is too similar or small. Your network can be a great source of information, inspiration, and expertise. However, if they are all in the same industry or function, you may be limiting your options. Expanding your network can give you diversity in thought and advice on what your career can look like.
2. You have no idea where to start
On the one hand, there are so many possibilities out in the world. On the other hand, you aren’t sure if any of those possibilities should be options for you. So how can you know what you want if you don't know where to get started? And if you had an idea of where to start, how would you figure out if that option is right for you?
At Crew, we’ve helped people figure out what they want through fun, collaborative, and structured exercises. And we can help you too.
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3. You are procrastinating the “figuring it out” process
The tricky part with procrastination is that you may not realize you’re doing it. For example, maybe you’re hoping that the job you’re in is magically going to get more interesting. There are ways to make your current job better. But if you’ve tried many options to no avail, holding out hope may be getting in your way.
In addition, you may be procrastinating because you’re scared of the unknown, especially if you’re comfortable where you’re at. But taking the leap doesn’t need to be as risky as quitting your job. There are ways to taste test different career options, which can give you information on what you like and don’t like.
4. You’re overly influenced by others
When you don’t know where to find answers about your career, you look to sources that you think are right. However, those may be leading you astray if followed too closely.
For example, you may be leaning on your family members, friends, or mentors for what you should do in your career. Yes, all these people can be incredibly helpful. However, taking too many ideas from their careers may not make you feel fulfilled.
On a similar note, maybe you’re following a standard path that isn’t right for you. For example, maybe your path has been communications coordinator, to communications specialist, to communications manager. But if you don’t enjoy communications, then this standard path isn't right for you. To move forward, you’d need to venture off the path.
Lastly, society at large plays a part here too. There are a handful of jobs that society deems as “good,” such as a lawyer or doctor. While these careers are prestigious, they may not be a good fit for you.
5. You don’t know what role work plays in your life
Have you ever wondered why you work?
There is a lot of chatter about work being meaningful, fulfilling, and mission-driven. But maybe you just want a job that pays the bills and has a decent work-life balance.
There are no wrong reasons to work. But it is ultimately up to you to figure out why you work. Once you know that, then you’ll have an easier time looking for a career that fits that bill.
6. Career search is hard work
The work that goes into figuring out what you want is hard, unstructured, and time consuming. It can be easy to say, “I’ll start tomorrow,” when you don’t want to do the work or don’t know where to start.
This is especially difficult if you are comfortable with where you are now. Why put in extra effort when you are doing alright? Or if you’re coasting on the job?
7. You don’t have a structured way to make decisions
You might have options for where to take your career. But without an effective way to make decisions, you’ll go back and forth between your options. Also, you may rule out every option and never decide to try anything new.
People tend to make a pros and cons list, which is a good way to organize thoughts. But there’s no mechanism to go from pros and cons to a decision on what to do next.
8. You have real constraints in your life
Maybe you have obligations to other people that you need to uphold, like supporting your partner, family, or elderly parents. At this point, it’s not just about what you want, but what will also allow you to uphold your responsibilities, which could limit your options.
9. You lack the confidence to try
It can be difficult to believe that you are capable of working and getting hired. This is especially applicable for people who have been laid off or recent graduates without any work experience. You may be thinking, “Who would possibly hire me?”
The thing is that you don’t need to be a master in your field to get a job. You can learn on the job and boost your confidence as you work.
What do you do if you’re not passionate about anything?
It is a common assumption that being passionate about work will result in a career you want. However, that may not always be the case.
Why? There are a couple of reasons.
- You don’t need to be passionate about your job to have meaning in your life. Your life is so much more than just your job. Your life can include friends, family, hobbies, health and fitness, and more. Your job can simply be an income source, so you can live a fuller life.
- You can develop a passion over time. You can’t know if you like a certain food without trying it first. The same concept applies to your career. You can’t know if you’re passionate about something until you give it a try.
- Passion can develop from something you’re good at. When you’re good at something, you get recognition and see the impact of your work. In addition, you’ll appreciate all the intricacies as you dig into the craft.
- You don’t need to fulfill your passion through work. For example, you don’t need to become a medical professional to help find a cure for cancer. Instead, you can raise funds for cancer research, volunteer your time, or raise awareness, all of which can happen outside of work.
How do you decide what career you might want to pursue?
At Crew, we believe the way to move forward is by throwing away the idea that we were meant for one be-all and end-all career. Experts are saying that the average person will have 13 complete career moves in their lifetime. This means that there may not be one job or career that’s just for you. But rather, your career can shift as you learn and grow.
So what does this mean for you now? You only need to figure out what you’d like to do next. There are a few things you can do to get started:
- Look back at your previous experiences. Your past experiences hold so much data about who you are, what you care about, and the circumstances in which you thrive. By dissecting those experiences, you can learn about what you’d want to pursue next.
- Understand your strengths. Knowing what you’re good at helps you identify work opportunities that light you up. Understanding your strengths also builds awareness around who you are and what you bring to the table. What a great confidence booster!
- Get input from people you trust. You can do a lot of exploration and discovery on your own. But your perspective can become too narrow if you only rely on yourself. Use your network to help you discover what you might do in your career.
The bottom line is that “figuring out what you want” is an ongoing process of learning with each job and getting curious about what you’d want next. Quite simply: Have an experience, learn from it, make a move, rinse and repeat.
If you’d like some more structure to your figuring-it-out process, we can help. Our tools make it easy, fun, and collaborative to get clear on what you want in your career.
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In the meantime, you can take the pressure off of trying to figure it all out. Instead, enjoy the ride and see where your career takes you!