Do you have a map for your career road trip?

By Jennifer Bowden, Training and Workshop Coordinator

In my resume workshop, I talk a lot about the importance of self-understanding as the foundation to a successful job search. The analogy I use is getting in the car and saying you’re going to drive somewhere: will you ever get there?  How will you know? On the other hand, if you said you were going to get in the car and drive to St. Louis, at the end of the day you would have a pretty solid idea of whetrv-road-tripher you’d arrived there, made progress, or decided to pick a different destination altogether. Anytime you’re headed somewhere new it helps to have some kind of map involved; the career search is no different.

Advice to new graduates tends to center around a few common themes; my last blog post was a run-down of advice from the best commencement speeches of 2014. We’ve all heard these themes before: Follow your passion. Do what you love and you’ll never work a day in your life. Be true to yourself. If something is worth doing, it’s worth doing right. You’ll regret missed opportunities later on.

This is great if you know what you want to do. But what if you’re completely lost? What if this advice is scary and paralyzing? Shouldn’t you have this figured out by now?

When people ask me what I do for a living, I tell them I help people figure out what they want to be when they grow up. It’s meant to be humorous and encourage a little more conversation, but I’m taken aback by how often that person clutches my arm and says anxiously, “Really? Can you help ME?”

It’s hardly ever the new graduates asking.

Remember the movie “Up”? Carl and Ellie Frederickson dreamed their whole lives about going to Paradise Falls, and they had a lot of really good reasons why they never got around to it. Of all the perfectly good reasons why you paradise-falls-jarhaven’t gotten around to figuring out what you really want to do, the scariest one to face is the realization that you really don’t know where to start. People often feel like they’re supposed to have figured this out already, or that everyone else knows what they want to do (remember that annoying classmate who’s known what he wanted to be since the age of 5?). You won’t get the life you want if you don’t know what it is, and the best way to get there is do some daydreaming.

It’s time to get some metaphorical travel brochures and start daydreaming about the career trip without the pressure of having to do anything about it (yet). Maybe you’ll decide that St. Louis isn’t the right destination and re-route to Chicago instead. Maybe you’ll decide that you really need to be headed to Paradise Falls. Maybe you’ll decide that travelling isn’t for you, after all. But you’re never going to get closer to figuring this out if you don’t give yourself permission to NOT know the answer for a little while.

Psychology Today: Tuning Into Daydreams for Career Direction

Working Self: Job, Career, Or Something Else?


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