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.

Which career direction should you choose?

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.

3 Responses

  1. So totally true! It is so funny what isn’t taught in school, using that “internal GPS” (love this!) is one of those things! I have found that sometimes it helps to just try something out for a while…just because you’re going this direction one day doesn’t make it forever, and no matter what you do there’s always something to be learned.

  2. Yes, so relate to this post! I got a degree that I loved learning about but had nothing to do with my strengths once I graduated…I wish someone would have talked more about listening to the internal GPS instead of all the outside ‘shoulds’ and logic. I knew once I was in my internship it was not for me. So I got a job anyway and worked toward something way more gratifying. The course correct! Thanks for the post 🙂

  3. Some detours really don’t hurt, first they provide you with more experience, you get to know yourself better, and sometimes a not so perfect job can still get you where you want to go.
    I grew up in Switzerland and while in High school we were sent to a career consultant office where they did a bunch of tests with us to find out what we were good at and should/could choose as a career. To me they said that I was very artistic and should do something with crafts, the suggestion was goldsmith, to create and make jewelry. This made total sense since I was constantly knitting, doing crochet, glass etching, wood carving etc in my free time.
    BUT, that was not what my parents had in mind for me! They wanted me to go to university or at least get a high profile office job in a bank or insurance company. So no matter what I wanted, they had already made the decision for me. So sometimes, even if the road signs point into a clear direction, one might not be able to go that route.
    I don’t necessarily agree with what my parents ‘did to me’ but I can’t say it all turned out wrong. I became a Financial expert and Controller, it turned out that I have a flair for numbers, that I can easily and quick get an overview and that my creative and artistic mind is a blessing. Going down this path has also helped me follow my other dreams and passions which I probably could not have done as a jeweler.

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