How do people decide what career path to take?
This is something I’ve often wondered. There are almost unlimited options and I never cease to come across roles that I’d never encountered before, even after years of recruitment and CV writing experience. As children most of us imagine we’ll become an astronaut, a ballerina, teacher, fireman or something similar. So, how does someone end up becoming an HSE Quality Manager, an Enterprise Partnership Director or even a CV Writer?
I recently took to LinkedIn to find out the answer to this question and received an incredible 2435 responses to a poll that asked, ‘How did you decide what career path was right for you?’.
- 13% used a career coach or career advisor
- 20% listened to their family and friends
- 58% simply tried different things
I have included some of the comments from respondents at the end of this article, they are quite inspiring and well worth reading!
It appears that for the majority of people it’s a process of trial and error. I take comfort in this. We often get stuck wondering what we should be doing with our life and there is so much emphasis on what we do. When we meet new people one of the first questions we ask is 'what do you do for a living?' and then we define them by this. It shapes our perception of the person and we put them in a box. But life, and our careers, are a journey. What we are doing today is not the final destination, it’s not the culmination of all that we are. It is just the thing that we happen to be doing right now.
In fact, most of us have multiple careers in our lifetime. There might be themes but the path is rarely straight. The point is to keep learning, keep growing and to keep trying different things. I do think that for most of us ‘trying different things’ is the best approach to take. Here’s why:
It’s easier to steer a moving ship
In other words, it’s easier to change direction and plot your path forward once you start moving. Many of us simply get stuck trying to think our way into the perfect career, the fear of making a mistake paralyses us into inaction. Early in our careers, we can have thoughts such as ‘I must choose the perfect degree/university/internship because this is going to determine the rest of my life’ or ‘what if I don’t like doing xyz, I’ll be stuck doing something I hate forever’.
Of course, there are some of us who know from a young age exactly what we want to do and then find fulfilment doing that thing for the rest of their lives. But it’s rare and unless you fall into that category, it can be unhelpful to approach your career with that same mindset.
So, don’t get stuck at the starting blocks, waiting to have all the answers. Start taking steps forward, try things and pivot and change direction as needed.
I'm going to recommend one resource to you on this subject, it's a book called Designing Your Life, in this book the authors (both of whom come from a design backgrounds) give us permission to try different things, and describe how this is simply part of the process of designing a well-lived and fulfilling life and career.
If you haven't read it yet, I highly recommend you check it out, you can find it here on Amazon.