Do you find yourself trolling job search sites and imaging yourself in the jobs you see there?
When a friend describes her job, do you quickly assess whether it might be something that you’d enjoy?
Do you look at graduate programs and do a budget in your head, calculating how lo
ng and how much money it would take to reinvent yourself?
If you’re wandering aimlessly across the career tundra, wondering where you belong, you’re not alone.
Just like Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder has verifiable roots, there’s a real foundation for your musings and your behavior.
Logic Reigned at Key Pivot Points
At each milestone moment in our lives, there are clear roads with neon signs pointing, “This way!” When you graduate from high school, the next logical step is college, and when you’re in college, the typical formula for figuring out your major can be summed up as
Classes in High School You Liked + What You’re Good At + Good Job Opportunities + Decent Salary = Your Career
If you’re like most people, you flooded your college career center with resumes, counted yourself lucky to have a reasonable offer before you went through the commencement ceremony, and started calculating your car payment and surfing online for your first vacation spot with paid leave.
All of those decisions made sense at the time, but once you’re settled into a job, and even if you’ve switched around a bit, there comes a point when you realize that you’re solidly in a career track and you wonder if maybe you made the right decision.
And the truth is, you did make good decisions. All of those decisions were great at the time and they took you towards success. To question whether you still have the same definition of success makes perfect sense a few (or more) years out of college.
Now, it’s time to integrate the other dimensions of your life that you’re developing.
- Does your job/career leave you room to spend time with people doing activities that matter to you?
- Does it align with your values?
- Do you feel invigorated and recognized at work?
There’s No College Course in Developing Your Internal GPS
No one teaches us to listen internally for our internal guidance. Maybe people asked you, “What’s your passion,” but that question can be paralyzing if there’s not a clear, easy response. In fact, sometimes it’s easier to make something up that sounds good just to have a ready answer for that question.
- How much of what we gravitate toward is a reaction to what has been taught and modeled for us?
- Are we really heading towards something, or are we trying get away from a fear or some discomfort?
It’s a Simple Question, but a Complex Answer
As you reflect on what to do next in your career, there aren’t straightforward answers.
Passions don’t always pay the bills, and there’s more to this question of which direction to take than what lights you up. Even when you set aside the question of clear barriers (your partner has a job in this town, but there are no other opportunities for you here beyond what you’re doing now, for example), there layers and nuances to this process.
- How can you craft mini experiments to determine whether you’re on a track worth pursuing rather than take a leap that bets most of your security?
- The job market is shifting so rapidly that it’s tough to make predictions about where opportunities lie. How do you know whether a direction you’re exploring has a solid foundation?
- How can you tell the difference between a bright, shiny object and a true calling?
Give yourself a break if you wonder whether you’re in the right spot professionally. You got here honestly, and just like ADHD, there are treatment protocols and strategies that can point you in the best direction for you and your long-term sense of satisfaction and meaning and security.
Where do you think you went astray? Post your pivot point in the comments below. It’ll help others recognize that they’re not alone in feeling cast adrift.