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What to do when you don't know what to do


Many people come to me knowing that they do not love what they do for a living. They know that it's not quite right; they sense that there's something better out there; but they do not have a clue what else they could or should be doing. They think that perhaps there really is nothing better out there so they should just be quiet and carry on. After all, they don't HATE what they do and lots of people work to live, right?

Well, that might be true but it would be a shame not to explore what other careers might fit. This is the R of the Dynami DREAM process: after the Discovery phase comes Researching and Refining your career possibilities. I think this bit is really fun and most of my clients have fun with it too! The idea is to get a really long list of career possibilities that you can start to research and refine until you have the shortlist that you want to Explore in earnest.

So, how can you start to generate ideas for your career possibilities? Here are a few exercises that my clients play with and you can too.

Ask Google

Google your key strengths and see what ideas come up for your career possibilities. A quick search for my key strengths comes up with careers such as: copywriter, editorial assistant, HR, consulting, estate agent(!), recruitment, PR, business development, clergy, judge, lawyer, doctor.

Now, some of these I have done, some of these I have considered doing and some of these feel left field but ... the trick at this stage is not to discount anything. I could easily dismiss "doctor" for example by saying I'm too old to do the lengthy training. Well, firstly I need to question my thinking there and not put restrictions on myself. Is there a possibility that I might be able to do it? Yes. Is there a career that is close to doctor that might not involve such lengthy training? Perhaps that could be training as a dietician, nutritionist, psychiatrist or massage therapist.

Ask other people

Ask people who know you well: "What alternative career could you see me doing in which I would thrive?". You might be surprised at what they come up with. I've had suggestions like teacher, designer, architect, farmer, journalist, scientist (specifically a radiologist) and a B&B owner.

Again, don't dismiss anything at this stage but use the ideas to spark other ideas. I've often dismissed teaching but actually teaching
music or children with specific educational needs would be fulfilling and enjoyable for me.

I often encourage my clients to also ask people that they don't know so well. If we are in a group coaching programme, then participants can post their strengths, values and purpose in the "community" and ask other members to come up with ideal careers for them. This can be great fun and really eye opening. Next time you're introduced to somebody for the first time and they ask you what you do for a living, why not ask them "what would you picture me doing?".

Career assessments

Do you remember going to see the career advisor at school? This question always raises an ironic smile from people of any age. The truth is that careers advice at school has never gotten any better since I was on the receiving end in the '80s. I remember being channelled towards banking (I was good at maths), translator (I was good at languages), teacher (I think everyone was told this) or secretary (yes, I was a girl).

The problem with schools' career advice is that it's channelled towards what you're good at academically and not so much about what your innate strengths are as a human being. Did the career advisor know that I was the person that all my friends came to when they had a problem because I'm a good listener? No. Did the career advisor know that you were the friend that always made me laugh and made me feel better when I was sad? No. Did the career advisor see you showing great leadership qualities or organisational skills when we were playing games? No.

There are hundreds of online career assessments and I think that most of them are about as good as that poor career advisor (by the way, was anyone ever told that they would make a great career advisor?). The Strengths Profile assessment has some "career suggestions" some of which are spot on and some of which make my clients laugh. However, as with all of the career possibilities you have been gathering, there may be kernels of truth as well as clues in the answers so it's worth exploring this too.

What to do with your list of career possibilities

If you do the three exercises above you will have a good list of weird and wonderful career possibilities to try on for size. For now, rank them in terms of which you're attracted to by your gut instinct - don't worry about salaries and training requirements for now.

Take the top 5 and carve out some time for yourself to explore these possibilities in more depth. Find out more about it. Talk to people who are doing this job. Ask yourself "Is there a possibility that I might be able to do this?" and, if the answer is yes, explore some more.

Your research will probably change the rankings and may even uncover some new possibilities. This is all I want you to do for now: be open to new possibilities and keep exploring. Who knows where it might lead?

Keep me posted!!

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