What Do You Want from Your Career?

career career path Nov 02, 2021

I hated it when my boss asked me “What do you want to be when you grow up?” as part of our conversation about my career. I had no idea what I wanted from my career in the long term. I kind of knew what I wanted to do next, but 10 years down the road was not visible to me.

    What I’ve found to be most important is to understand what you are looking for in your career. What are your expectations around roles, responsibilities, location, hours, and culture? These are the questions that need to find the answers for in the present and near future, say 1 – 2 years. Things change as we grow and learn, so don’t think more than 5 years out unless you really have a driving vision for your career. Some people do.

    As these answers become clear you will be able to see what your next step looks like. When you have no definition on what you want it’s easy to get stuck in place because there are too many options. Narrowing your focus will help you pick a path for your next move.

    Picking a single path doesn’t condemn you to staying on a career path that stops working for you in the future. That’s the greatest thing about taking charge of your career, if it’s not working you can fix it.

    By gaining clarity on what you want from your career you can start to work towards it. You will understand any gaps you may need to close, know which of your superpowers will help, and you can create a plan to get there. A goal without action is just a dream, so to reach your career goal you need to take action, so the plan is key.

     Here are my 3 favorite tips to gain clarity on what you want from your career:

  1. Candid self-assessment. It’s time to really understand what works for you and what doesn’t in terms of your career. Maybe you are only chasing a paycheck and will do most anything anywhere. That’s great as long as that’s your choice. If the number of hours per week is non-negotiable, you need to be clear on what that looks like. If there are things you won’t do or places you won’t work or locations you won’t live in, okay let’s be clear. Take the time to really look at what matters most to you in terms of your job and career.
  2. Research. If you have a particular job or industry that you want to focus on then make sure you understand the requirements that are unique to them. What are the hours like, what’s the culture like, where will you have to live, what’s their stand on diversity/inclusivity, or anything else that matters to you? There is nothing more frustrating or demoralizing than going into a position expecting one thing and getting something different. Talk to people in those roles, research companies and industries. Look before you leap.
  3. Be flexible. It’s always interesting how when we sit down and really investigate what we want to do we discover new ideas. I’ve seen women who thought they wanted to go one direction and then when they looked at the whole picture realized that it was interesting work but didn’t fit their family situation. Others have found that they were being pushed in one direction by external expectations, but they were happy and productive right where they were. Be open to what you discover along the way and adapt as needed.

     Understanding what you want from your career is the first step to taking charge of your career so you can achieve the career you desire. As you understand what you want, you will be able to speak up for those goals and advocate for yourself.


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