“I been at my job for a year. Two? Three? This is my first (or second) real full-time professional jobs. Summer time hits, schools are out, I know people who just graduated. I feel like another year is passing. I feel stuck. I feel lost. I feel confused. I like my job but there is something more. I feel like there is something I am missing but I am not sure what it is. Should I be looking for a different job? Maybe I should be applying to grad school? Am I really following the career path that I want to follow? I don’t really understand why I am feeling this way?”
Rest assured if you felt that way you are not alone. Over the past three years, I felt varying degrees of this feeling. And I asked a lot of my friends and many people feel the same way, especially at the first and second year anniversary of their graduation or work start date.
‘I have feels about my dreams and goals’
It’s natural to worry about your career and your future. Anniversaries of important events remind us to check where we are in our life plans. Just like New Years is a time where everyone has time to think and evaluate their life and their plans, career wise you are more likely to think about what you need to change in your life career wise during graduation anniversary or start date anniversary (in your early career years). You wonder if you are doing the right thing. You really are wondering if you are following your dreams and goals. You are anxious about it.
Things that always start hitting everyone is how well they are performing at work. Are they at the company, the position and the industry they really want to be in. Are you focusing on your career, your family, your hobbies, your love life or your friends? How are you prioritizing all of those things at the same time? Maybe all this time you are thinking if you should move to a different city all together.
All those questions will hit you and they all will hit you together. It will take you months to figure out what all your emotions mean on your own and what your thoughts and fears are.
Step 1: Acknowledge this is a journey
First things first you need to acknowledge your feelings. You are going to need to acknowledge that this is going to be a journey. This is a process of self-discovery. Think of the journey as a great adventure, an eat, pray, love kinda-of adventure, just less spiritual and more professional.
You are not going to wake up one day and find yourself happy. You cultivate happiness. You cultivate good energy overtime. You cultivate understanding and meaning overtime. And you are going to cultivate purpose. Your struggle revolves around purpose and goals and overtime you will discover it. It will not hit you in one day but it will be the result of long process.
Step 2: Uncover things from your past
Scroll through your Facebook pictures from the beginning of time. Invite your friends over and do this together. Look at old pictures you have on your computer or printed. Feel free to share the experience with others. As you look through those pictures you are going to uncover what made you you. You are the results of millions of tiny experiences. As you look through your old and new memories you will remember feelings you had when you were younger. You are going to remember what your dream was when you were 5, how it changed as you grew older.
Look through your old stuff: old letters, postcards, colleagues or memories. Clean up your bookcase, or your room and uncover the things you forgot about. Be active and give yourself time to absorb and acknowledge your feelings and thoughts. Somethings might bring up sad feelings while others will bring happy feelings. Nonetheless take time to remember your journey of where you are today.
Read your college admission essays. [I highly recommend this]. Dig through your emails or old computer folders and find your college admission essays. Find the list of schools you applied to. Relieve the memories: the sadness of rejections and happiness of acceptances. Look at how far you made it thus far. Read your essays. Your unravels a quite deal about yourself in those essays years ago and as you read them now you will realize how much you have grown. You might have changed majors a few times and maybe you didn’t. Either way you are probably not the same person. Your goals developed over the years. Your purpose changed.
Step 3: Imagine yourself on the greener hill
I gave this advice to many others before. Update your LinkedIn profile and subscribe to weekly or daily job posting emails. Check them out as they come. Feel free to limit your search to areas you might be considering moving to or living in. As those emails come in take time to view them. Explore the opportunities that match your skills. Subscribe to job agent emails for positions or industries you are considering. Read job descriptions. Read more about those companies. Search for people who work for those companies with the specific positions you are interested in. Look over those people’s LinkedIn profiles (or any other websites/social media profiles they have).
Imagine yourself in those positions. Imagine your career path. Imagine how it would feel to work for those companies that you might be thinking about. Look them up on Glassdoor and PayScale. There is no better way to know what the possibilities are without researching them. You can let the automated job agents do the work for you. But really read job descriptions and understand what a job entails. I heard more than half my friends say they want to go back to school to do an MBA, but they truly don’t understand what an MBA is, how it will help them in their career or what specifically they will be studying in an MBA or what specializations are even offered.
Many times we think we are qualified to be the a lead in the organization with a year or two of experience. But as you look at the resumes online of those who made it you realize that success is built on years of hard work, not a year or two of great performance at an entry level job.
If you want to go to graduate school, go to informational sessions. Research graduate school programs: any and all of them that interest you. Really understand what an MBA is. A trick I used to do in school was to YouTube any concept I was confused about. So feel free to YouTube videos for what CFA, CPA, PE, MBA or any other program mean. Dig deeper and understand what graduate school will really mean.
Step 4: Re-define your life purpose
You uncovered your past. You imagined yourself on the other side of other career opportunities at different companies, industries or career levels. You researched Master degree programs. What about everything else? Have you been spending enough time with your family? Have you been spending enough time with friends? Have you been doing enough fun things? Are you happy being single or in a relation or it’s complicated (whatever your current relationship status is)?
This is probably going to be the hardest and most draining step, but hopefully step 2 prepared you for this self-discovery phase. What are your values? That’s not an easy question to figure out but here is two suggestions from my personal experience to figure out what you care about and what you truly are
- Gallup’s StrengthsFinder 2.0 Top 5 Strengths. Do the test and really understand what your strengths are. Your strengths define your weaknesses. Your strengths also define a lot of your values. You will truly uncover things you don’t probably think about a lot.
- Uncover your core values using a Core Values test. (Check this one out)
Once you uncover your values exercise, you will start thinking deeply into what really makes you happy and what you really want to accomplish in your life. You are doing to spend days, weeks and possibly months uncovering this. It takes a lot of self-discovery to digest the results and to know how much you value things.
Take a walk, go on a trip by yourself, or put on your headphones, lie on the ground and think for hours.
You will come to a conclusion. Your career might be the most important thing, but it might not. Maybe you want to be famous. Maybe you want to be rich. Maybe you really want to start your own family. Maybe you really just want to travel a lot. Maybe you want to have a great adventure and try new things in your city. Maybe you want to have a strong social network. Maybe you want to start your own business. No matter what you realize it doesn’t matter. What matters is that you uncovered it. Also realize that this is not a black and white art. Our values have scales and we might have values that are on similar levels as each others. So don’t limit yourself to a single choice. It’s okay and very possible to pick family and career at the same time. But you can’t have everything in life. You will need to compromise to achieve your dreams. [Await a future article on this topic]
Step 5: Take Action
You probably realized that your job is already satisfying enough; or maybe not. What matters is by now you should have re-defined your self purpose. You re-imagined your goals and dreams. They could be the dreams of 5 year old you or they could be completely new goals and dreams. Whatever your goals are, start working on them.
Start working on improving yourself. Spend more times with friends if you want to. Put yourself out there. Join a public speaking club. Join a sports club. Call or visit your parents every week or every day. Whatever. Do it all. Do what you like. Do what you truly want to do.
Remember that success takes a lot of hard work. If you learn anything from step 3 is that others spend years building their life. We spend many years in college but remember how they call graduation, ‘commencement’ because it’s the beginning. It is truly the beginning. Your journey has just began. You are going to be successful. You are going to make it. I believe in you. You are going to be happy.
Remember that life is a process. It’s a journey. And so is happiness and fulfillment and success. They take time. Success is about not given up. So is life and so is happiness.
Step 0: Don’t worry
This step comes before all the other steps, but it must be mentioned last. Don’t worry. Everyone else is worried about their future. The internet is filled with articles detailing while the 20something kids are struggling and how to help them. You are not alone. Talk to your friends and family. Share your self-discovery experience. Nobody can do everything alone. A strong support system will accelerate your growth dramatically (this could be mentors, friends, family, coworkers, anyone).
Good luck. Let me know how your experience goes. Comment below or email me, I will try to respond to every single person who shares their thoughts or experience with me. I will follow up an article with my personal goals along with others who share their thoughts and would like to have them published.
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