Woman Figuring Out What To Do In Her Career: Source Unsplash

How to figure out what you want to do in your career

Grace Ong, Women’s Leadership Coach, shares her starting tips for figuring out what you want to do in your career and what your next move should be. With so many options out there it can be hard to have full clarity on your ‘ideal’ career pathway; in this article Grace will help you to identify your ‘non-negotiables’ and focus on what you truly do want to do. 

We have just started 2021 and many of us are thinking about our career goals for the year, or even the next two or three years. Perhaps you are a freelancer and it is more about where you would like the business to be. However it can really difficult to get clear on what those goals and next moves should be when you have so many ideas and thoughts racing around your head. It can seem like there are too many options. Some of which may be very interesting or exciting, and some not so much. I bet there is at least one option where the money is really good, for example, but something tells you it is not quite right and that is why you are hesitating. When clients come to me with this career dilemma of not knowing what to pursue next, I like to use a two-step approach.

My two-step approach to figuring out what you want next in your career

The first step is to be clear and realistic about what your non-negotiables and must-haves are, versus what would be the nice-to-haves. For some, a must-have could be variety, be it types of projects, industries, or clients. For others, a must-have could be to earn a certain level of income due to responsibilities and/or a change in circumstances for example a divorce. Another must-have could be flexibility or variable hours/days, or proximity to home though this is less relevant now with COVID. Being clear about your non-negotiables will filter out options that clash with these requirements. Write a list of your non-negotiables and your ‘nice-to-haves’ so that they can live outside of your head.

The second step involves figuring out your purpose, or ikigai, Japanese for “the reason for being.” Your ikigai usually changes at different life stages. What is key is to be clear on what is important to you now and your current situation. Figuring out your purpose involves answering three questions:

  • What do you like to do?
  • What are you good at?
  • What are your values?

To start finding your personal values, read our helpful article by Sally Inkster: Your personal brand hugely affects your career – it’s more than just your CV

From there, you can start to match your non-negotiables with your purpose. Your career vision will be much clearer as you would have eliminated any ideas that do not fit the above questions.

So what is next?

Now that you have your career vision for this year, or the next two or three years, how would you actually execute that vision? This is where the devil is in the details and there are essentially three aspects to consider:

  • How will you communicate your goals this year?

If you are thinking about switching jobs or careers, or returning to work after a break, this is about who you can network with this year and how you tell your story to potential employers and recruiters. If you want to stay in your job or company but want to elevate and/or get that promotion, this is not just about communicating upwards but also building your brand internally. What evidence can you build this year to showcase yourself, e.g. projects, initiatives, results? If you have your own business, then it is about developing your pitch and prioritising the types of clients and collaborations for this year.

  • The most detailed plans, the right pitch and story, will all fall apart if you do not have the confidence and resilience to execute.

Maybe you are still shaken up from being made redundant. Perhaps you have had a career break and you feel inadequate; the world is a different place now. Maybe you think you are just not good enough and never will be; you will never fit in and will always be the outsider. Or you think that what you offer is not differentiated enough; why would anyone choose you or your product?

This is where personal work comes in. Carve out time to reflect and be kind to yourself, clear the self-limiting beliefs and manage your inner critic. Find your inner strength to be true to yourself and your values. If necessary, find the support and help you need, be it through friends and family, a coach or a therapist, or good old journaling.

  • Get your shop front in order.

As a solopreneur or a business owner, what are the priorities this year for your branding? This is not just a website or logo or company colours, it could also be for example a social media presence.

If you are thinking of a new job, consider how you want to present yourself. First impressions after all matter… a lot. If you are going for that promotion, are you dressed for the role, like a leader, albeit on Zoom?

To summarise, in developing your career vision, link your purpose and your non-negotiables together to filter out distracting options that do not fit what you need now at this stage of your life. Let this be the compass to then help you execute your career plans for the year with the right message for your target audience, a great mindset and attitude, and the best impressions.

Grace Ong

Grace Ong is a women’s leadership and career coach. Find out more about Grace at gowomenleaders.com and connect with her on LinkedIn.

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