Three Exercises and Prompts to Figure Out What to Do in Your Career
After 14+ years of blogging on career issues (largely based on questions from my readers), the overwhelming number-one topic I hear is how to figure out what to do for your career.
I hear from people just starting out who don’t have a clear career target – maybe a vague sense of their interests, but not a clear way to translate these notions into an actual job. I hear from experienced professionals who long for something else, but have no idea what – just that it’s not what they’re doing now.
Does this questioning sense of “What’s next?” describe you?
If you are questioning what’s next, the good news is that there’s no one right answer for everybody, as the best career fit is custom-made job by job, project by project, connection by connection. The bad news, too, is that there’s no single answer you can point to and say, “Just do that!”
To figure out what to do in your career, you need to experiment. Think of yourself like a researcher, only you’re researching yourself – what makes you tick, what makes you light up, your priorities and your interests.
I curated some of my favorite exercises and prompts to get you started on that investigative journey.
1) Do you need to do something about your career or some other area of your life? Try the Wheel of Life exercise.
We spend a lot of time working so it makes sense that, if you’re unhappy, your job is a likely culprit. However, there are other areas of your life, such as your relationships, your personal interests, health, money, etc. that also have a significant impact on your wellbeing and may actually be the issues that need tend.
The Wheel of Life is a popular coaching exercise that addresses this issue head-on. Draw a circle and divide it into eight segments (like a pizza). Each segment is an area of your life, such as:
- Personal hobbies.
- Spiritual connection.
- Community connection.
You can do as few as six segments if you really don’t have eight priorities, or you might edit some – for example, breaking relationships into significant other, family, and friends separately (then you need to take out two other categories).
Rate your satisfaction in each segment from 1 to 10, where 1 is the center of the wheel and 10 goes out to the edge. If you score 5 in everything, your wheel is round and balanced, but also small. If you score low in some and high in others (like most people), your wheel is unbalanced and you can see visually which areas need tending.
A career change is disruptive. It would be helpful to shore up some other areas first to give yourself a strong foundation to launch a big career breakthrough.
2) What do you enjoy? Try the 100 Dreams exercise.
Sometimes you’re so frustrated with your current career and you’re so used to just doing what you don’t enjoy, that you have forgotten what it feels like to enjoy yourself. Your compass is broken. Your passion muscle is weak from inactivity. You don’t have a good sense of anything that interests you.
In this case, trying to home in on your interests AND specifically professional interests is too big a leap. You just need to get that passion muscle moving again. My favorite exercise for this is 100 Dreams, where you brainstorm a list of everything you want to be, do, and have.
I created this exercise years ago, and it’s been picked up by other coaches and experts. One of my favorite productivity/time management gurus, Laura Vanderkam, makes a new list of 100 Dreams each year and invites her community to come up with their own!
3) Where do your natural interests take you? Try the Table of Contents exercise.
In addition to 100 Dreams, another exercise you can do is to take stock of what you like to read.
If you’re too busy to read, that’s a shame…but for purposes of this exercise, browse the headlines on major media outlets, such as the Wall Street Journal, Fortune, Forbes, etc.
Don’t click through, or you might fritter away your whole day. Simply notice what catches your interest. Is it a specific industry? Are there companies that catch your attention? Are there people you like to read about – why? What are they doing? Is there a specific issue you continually gravitate to, such as turning a situation around or how people can collaborate better or improving some aspect of society?
When most reading was done with print publications, I called this the Table of Contents exercise because it entailed going to a well-stocked library and glancing at the table of contents for as many diverse publications as you could. I recommend business and hard news publications, or in these days websites, because you’re trying to find interests that might translate to a career, rather than a hobby.
Caroline Ceniza-Levine is a longtime Ellevate member, executive recruiter, and career coach. Her mission is helping experienced professionals in tech, media, financial services, and other industries find work they love, earn more doing it, and achieve FI (financial independence).
Read seven more exercises in the full monster post here, and join Caroline starting Dec. 26 for 12 Days of Coaching, FREE training on landing your dream career, achieving financial independence and more.
Have more questions? Follow up with the expert herself.
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Being great in your career is not the same as being great at managing your career. This is why even smart, talented professionals, who get great results for their employers, don’t get these same great results for their own careers. I help people make a great living, doing work they love and have coached professionals from Amazon, Goldman Sachs, Google, McKinsey, Tesla, and other leading firms. Please get in touch if you want to design... Continue Reading
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