There are many things we would have done differently when we look back at our past. One of them is our career and education choice. If I travel back in time I would do things differently and it's very valuable for yourself to think about it because you can align your life based on the insight. This post is based on Wait But Why career choice article. However, it can also be helpful to those who think about where to study or what to do after school.
It is never late
If I travel back in time I would probably do things differently: take a gap year after graduating from high school, try professions that seemed interesting to me at that time, and use the guide How to Pick a Career Path from Wait But Why. Unfortunately or luckily, I did not have that guide or the knowledge I have now to make things differently. If you have just graduated or not happy with your current profession, it is still not late at all to take any action and guide your life in the right direction.
The guide itself is thorough and there is even a pdf that you can use to follow step by step. I thought it would be more convenient for me to translate the guide into Notion and use it for self-reflection and pondering about my current career choices. Besides, you can track your current thoughts for future reference and have it all in one place. The article covers everything in more depth so you would want to read it first to understand the underlying concepts.
The guide is divided into several parts:
- Your past: who you are and what is your current track
- Self-reflection: what drives you and what you want
- Pick a path that meets the reality and yourself
In general, this guide is more than about your career. It helps to understand your motivations, aspirations, and life choices. Let's dive in.
Your life to this moment
In this section, you need to think about where you stand now. Fill in the Life Path table, think about each period. Why did you take a certain major subject at the university? What was your first job, how did you feel about it?
Answering the following questions will help you to estimate the advantages and drawbacks of your current career. Usually, we do not feel happy when our expectations do not meet reality. Find out where did the expectations come from and if you didn't have any then why is that so.
- What is your current career choice?
- How did you arrive at this point?
- What's wrong and good about your life?
- What did you expect and whether you met those expectations.
You might already have ideas for your career development or direction. Lay them out in the table and rate it.
Next, it is important to think about all the driving force that has guided you up to this moment. It is important to remember that not all aspirations or decisions are yours. Some are dictated by your parents, by the society or role models that you aspire. It is crucial to understand what is part of you and what is hidden behind external opinions or decisions. For instance, you might have taken a career choice because your parents think that being a lawyer is prestigious or you took a major in Humanitarian subjects because you thought you are bad at math in high school, and perhaps you did not even consider IT because your teacher was boring and taught you plain HTML with no CSS.
Nonetheless, it's all past and you have an opportunity to dig deep and discover who you truly are and what you want deep down. Start by laying out the yearnings or fears that you have for different areas of your life. Ask yourself why do you feel that way until you find out a true reason.
For instance, let's say I wrote down Security as one of my yearnings or fears.
- Why do I feel that it's important to me? - I want to be sure that I will have everything I need
- Why? - It is not cool to be in debts and not provide enough for my family
- Why? - Perhaps because my parents had a hard time to build a career and raise me
- Why? - They made mistakes, but I can avoid them. Also, earning money is not that hard
- Conclusion? - Security is not something that I should base my career on.
I separated each interrogation result into three categories to see whether it's true me or the imposter pretending to be me. You can add whichever you prefer. Later we'll sort this table by only showing yearnings that belong to me.
Pick a path
Once you figure out your inner true self cravings you can start laying out possible career choices. At this point, you will have a list of things you want to do and the Career Landscape table which is sorted by the potential. It is time to cross-reference both tables and pick your Want careers that correspond to a Real Field in Career Landscape table.
With all the new knowledge in mind, consider rearranging your Career Plan table to add or adjust career paths. To make a final gut check Tim suggests having a thought experiment: the image you are talking to your future self in the deathbed. You tell your future self your current plan and want to hear his opinion with all your future life in his mind. He might, for instance, say that it's good that you have finally decided to quite a job that you don't like or that your new career change plan is weighted and not frivolous or that you have self-esteem deep down and you don't need to build your professional life around it.
Revise the Yearning Octopus table and ask if your future self is okay with Fulfillment (and other yearnings that you rated 5 or 4 stars) being one of your top priorities. Tell your plan to your future self as well and get feedback. Adjust it accordingly.
Lastly, before moving forward think about how inert you are. Either end of the spectrum is radical. The more I learn the more I understand that it's about balance. You should be persistent enough to make it through but close the book if it is boring.
Never quit anything ← Persistent but quit when it makes sense ← Quit everything
Keep track of your self-analysis in the table for future reference.
Making a major life decision is difficult. Do not rush with and make sure you understand yourself better. Self-reflection is the key. You decided something in the past due to specific reasons, find them out in order not to make them again. Learn from your past mistakes. You can download the Notion template here.