How to find your authentic career self in 4 simple steps
How well do you know yourself and what really motivates you? In order to have a happy life and a long career it’s essential to know not only what makes you happy, but what makes you tick.
There is a lot of advice online that says “doing what you love” is key to ultimate career success. However, many experts have now put across the opposite point of view, that doing what “makes you happy” could be a dangerous tactic as it is likely to lead you down the wrong path.
In truth, it is essential to discover not only what makes you happy, but what you are proficient at, and also what people will pay you for. Another obvious thing to take note of is “what is in demand”.
According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the average worker only spends an average of 4.4 years in any job. There have been suggestions that millennials expect to change jobs every two or three years, meaning that most people can expect to hold between 10 and 20 jobs in one lifetime. This means that one person is likely to have to reinvent his or her skill set multiple times in their lifetime. It’s nothing to fear if you understand the process.
Step 1: Write down everything you are successful with – the things people pay you to do
Look at your entire career and focus on your strong points. Are there things that you’ve done in the past that fell outside your job description – but you kept on being asked to do them because you’re very proficient?
Think of skills you have that you may not have concentrated on. Are you a great “cultural fit” for your organisation, do you have outstanding people skills? Are you better with numbers than your peers? Do you have skills in media and public relations that your past employer capitalised on?
Think about your core skill set. This really only needs to include your top three or five skills. Start with your main skill and drill down from there. Be honest with yourself and disregard your resume or what you “think” you are good at.
Step 2: Write down everything that you don’t enjoy doing
More often than not we have elements of our job that we do not enjoy doing. This is normal and natural, particularly for proficient, successful people. Think back to your last three serious career roles and really break down the things you did not enjoy about the job.
This could include reporting to multiple managers, having to manage others, working in a fast-paced team or working alone. Perhaps you dislike having to write reports or post to social media. Perhaps you found yourself in a 9-5 office role that didn’t suit you. Alternatively, you may have found yourself working odd hours and late shifts that no longer support your family’s needs.
Identify the things you didn’t enjoy doing and look for the patterns. By spending time thinking about the things you’d like to avoid in the future, you will be one step further to finding your authentic self.
Step 3: Write down the things you enjoy doing the most (from a professional point of view)
OK now it’s time to have a little fun. Think back to your early career and what your initial dreams were. Not all of us have a clear vision of where we want to be while we are at school, college or university, for some of us, it takes years or even decades to home in on what we really enjoy and who we really are.
When thinking through this step, look back to past career successes – things that you have personally been involved with that have made your employers proud.
What can you do with ease? What naturally falls into your lap? If you had little to no resources, what could you still produce? How in demand is that thing/ are those things? It’s essential to not “over think” or “under think” this step. Do not get stuck on listing your hobbies (e.g. paddleboarding or gardening) unless they relate to your career path (or have in the past).
5 questions: What My Authentic Self Enjoys the Most
- When I was a child/teenager I wanted to achieve…
- In my career, I have been happiest when I…
- I always admired the career of… because they achieved…
- I have strong skills in
- I feel happiest when I have completed a task where I…
Step 4: Research your industry (or the industry you plan to get into)
In this step, you’ll break down some of the needs of the industries you are trying (or hoping) to get into. Research the top 3 to 10 companies in your sector by creating an Excel spreadsheet. Go to each of the companies’ main sites, then their social platforms and their LinkedIn page. Create a column for “influencers” you come across – these could be people in your network, or people who write and speak prominently about your industry.
Try to find some influencers who live and work in your city (or the city where you are applying for work). Create another column for trends and buzz words in your industry and collect any articles you find that specifically relate to your sector.
Next, have a look at job descriptions for the type of role you are thinking of. At this stage of your research, it’s fine if the selection of jobs you’re researching is quite disparate, this process will help you identify where you need to go next.
Then, create a column where you list a series of skills you’ve found within these job descriptions, and match these skills to skills on your own resume. Identify any gaps you will need to fill – would you benefit from doing a short course in SEO, Marketing or Design? Do you really have the leadership skills to work in the type of role your planning?
The importance of finding your authentic self
Carl Jung said, “The privilege of a lifetime is to become who you truly are.” Never is this truer than in our professional careers, where we seek to make our mark on the world. By learning to truly disseminate what you can be paid to do vs. what you authentically enjoy doing – you will set yourself up for career satisfaction and happiness.
Isn’t that your real goal?