I remember the moment I finished my final university exam.
The chains of formal education had finally been cut. I felt so liberated! Now I can do whatever I want. I screamed from the top of my lungs, “BRING IT ON WORLD I AM READY FOR YOU!”
2 weeks later…
To cut a long story short, I spent weeks feeling confused by my existence. The world was scary, and I had no idea what to do with my life. Therefore, the majority of my time was spent sleeping, eating, worrying that I had no purpose in life, wallowing in self-pity, and watching YouTube. Queue the tiny violin.
I knew I wanted to do something useful with my life, but what!?
The fact I was wasting my time away frustrated me. This frustration built up and I had to channel it somewhere. So one morning, I decided to go for a jog around Virgina Water lake to let out this frustration.
I hoped this would help me find clarity. It perked up my mood and relieved the stress I bombarded myself with. Then a great practical idea came into my head! I still use it to this day to help me become clear about what I want.
Lo and behold! I present to you a practical action plan for when you find yourself saying “WTF should I do with my life?”
Step 1: Brainstorm
- Get a piece of paper.
- Write your name in the middle.
- Write down all the things you want to do with your life.
- Write everything you can think of, even if you are not 100% sure. Put it down anyway.
Step 2: EXTERMINATE
Cross out all the options you definitely don’t want to do. If I’m not sure of one option, I imagine myself performing that role for two years and ask myself the following questions:
- Does it excite me thinking about it?
- Is it easy to imagine myself being happy there?
- Do I feel like I am making a meaningful impact on the world?
If yes to all, it stays.
However, if I imagine myself performing the role while day-dreaming about another path, or have the gut feeling that I would find it soul destroying after the first two months, I cross it off.
Step 3: Google Your Options
If you are anything like me, you will still have a few options left on your board. Do some research on each option.
For example, if I think I want to work for WaterAid I will:
a) Google the company and check out their website. Are my values are aligned with theirs, and do I have a strong desire to help them achieve their mission?
b) Read job descriptions of positions I think I want to do.
- Does it still excite me? Yes = Keep. No = Eliminate.
- Do I think I have the necessary attributes the role requires? Yes = Keep. No = Eliminate.
c) Read employees’ reviews of the company. One website I just stumbled across is GlassDoor, it allows you to read reviews left by employees and contractors, and look at the salaries the company offers.
d) Speak to people who already work for the company. Find them on LinkedIn, or look through your current network.
Speaking to people is such an important factor!
e) Google ‘What is it like being an *insert job title here*?’ and read honest blogs about it. Read good and bad ones so you get a balanced view. Then draw your own conclusions.
Step 4: Exterminate and Repopulate
Use your research and gut instinct to cross out further options.
Your research may have helped you get more of an idea about what specifically you want to do or sparked more ideas. Make sure you add those points to your brainstorm!
Your research may also have indicated which career path you have the skill set to go down at this moment. It may also have indicated which career paths you need more experience in. Through my research and brainstorming, I realised that I would love to set up a social enterprise which helps make people self-sufficient. How specific is that?!
But before I set this up I need to:
- Gain knowledge of how charities and social enterprises operate. What is their business model? What are their processes? What challenges do they have to face?
- Travel the world and become less ignorant. There could be a village in Cambodia that I want to install water pumps in, but until I immerse myself the village’s culture (assuming they allow me) I have no idea what they need; or if they even want external help.
Step 5: Prioritise
The important thing to remember is you can do them all! But you are only allowed to do one at a time.
Write a key appropriate to your career timescale. Mine looks like this:
1 = 2016
2 = 2017
But others may want a two-year contract with a company, in which case their key will have different dates.
Next to the options you have left, write a ‘1’ for the option you want to do now; a ‘2’ for the option you want to do after; a ‘3’ for… etc.
You may find two things you want to do will overlap. That’s OK. For example, this year I want to renovate three houses, buy four HMOs and go travelling. Luckily I can do this; providing I have put a trustworthy team in place to look after my properties while I am away.
If you are working in a career and want to set up your own business, you may have to look at moonlighting (working 9-5 then using your evenings to focus on your business until it can support you financially).
Step 6: Create a timeline and/or vision board (Optional)
Eugh. OK. I have spent an hour trying to find a website that allows me to create a simple timeline. No such luck, so I have created a basic one on excel.
I put the year at the top with my career paths underneath. Then underneath the career path, I have listed my relevant goals. I have also included my travel plans and holidays for the year.
This allows me to see a quick snapshot of the next three years. I love being able to see the bigger picture.
If you want a copy of this I have created one you can download here —> Career Timeline Template
Good news! Upon my search for a simple timeline, I did find this awesome Vision Board creating app by Jack Canfield.
Unfortunately, you can’t use the app on your PC’s desktop (which I would have liked), but I have been playing around and you can easily:
- Search images from the web and use them
- Use pics from your phone
- Add text
- Move the pictures around
- Rotate pictures
- Change the size of pictures
If you search for it in the app store on Andriod search ‘Success Vision Board app’
The four things you need to know to find clarity
1. Every path has its own adventures, challenges and opportunities.
2. Omg. Duh! I will go down many paths in my life, not just one. The question is, which adventure do I want to have first?
I am 20-something, only a rare few know exactly what they want to do. Even though people change their career path 10 years down the line, it doesn’t mean those 10 years are wasted. In those 10 years, I bet they learned a heck of a lot, had some amazing experience and met some cool people.
They probably met some not-so-cool people too, but those are our best teachers. They help us ‘build character’. They strengthen our resilience. And most importantly they help us learn more about ourselves if we observe the way we react to them.
3. The only ‘wrong’ decision is staring at the crossroad, paralyzed by fear, refusing to choose any path. Not making a decision results in me wasting time. Today is the youngest day of my life.
4. By walking down ANY path, I will get greater clarity about what I want to do and what I do not want to do. Any path I take will help me get to where I want to be, even if I don’t know what that is yet.
Thank fudge #MumToldMeOffForSwearingInOtherBlogs
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Jess, Thanks for this. I a little further down the path and have my why and my passion, but sometimes in those moments of creative genius I lose clarity. Thanks for the tips which I will try out.
It’s a pleasure Jamila :), how did you initially figure out your why and passion?
Really good article – I would recommend it to anyone (of any age!). Thanks for posting, Jess
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