What do I want to do when I grow up? Where do I see myself in 5 or 10 years? If readers are anything like myself, these questions can be overwhelming and terrifying, especially early in your career.
Good news! I don’t know is a perfectly okay answer! I want to be clear, I am not suggesting that a person shouldn’t set goals, however, for most young professionals not knowing what they want to do in the long term is a truthful and honest answer.
With all of the internal pressures and trying to keep up with the Joneses’ we often feel like we are supposed to have all the answers. The unknown can be so frightening it can be paralyzing. As a professional recruiter, I see all too often young professionals talking themselves out of fantastic career opportunities that they want because of the unknown and the what-ifs. Those first career decisions can feel so BIG that it can seem like taking the wrong step will lead to forever career doom!
As an established finance and accounting recruiter in the Minneapolis market, I thought sharing some perspective about what to think about when making a career change would be beneficial. My great uncle once told me, “Experience is something you get just after you need it.” He was right. How can one possibly know exactly what they want out of their career until they have had multiple experiences, taken risks, and been beaten up a bit by the world?
While the suggestions below can’t take away the fear of making the wrong career decision, I hope it helps to flip the script to see that embarking on calculated career opportunities should be seen as exciting and invigorating and is worth the leap of faith!
Five Tips While Making a Career Change
- Trust & Know Yourself: You know more than you think you do. Often times young professionals focus on the fact that they really don’t know what they want to do. However, most know what they currently do like about their job and what they don’t like (especially what they don’t like!) Make a list of duties and responsibilities you like and don’t like. Within your current career how does the positive weigh against the negative?
- Set Goals: We have all heard the saying, “Those who fail to plan, are planning to fail.” Have a vision but understand that life is such that no plan goes unaltered. People encounter challenges, but keep moving. There are many ways to reach the end destination and not one perfect path or perfect job. Be positive, work hard, and remain moving. Don’t let fear cause stagnation. Usually, being afraid isn’t a good reason not to do something.
- Gather Information: This is very important. Though young professionals often look for the perfect job, most of the time they can’t even define what that means. It is important to gather information and work with facts vs. trying to lean on feeling. (i.e.—“Though I can’t describe it, if the perfect job comes up I will know.”)
- Network: Talk to everybody you can! Be interested, not interesting. Professional curiosity is a great thing. Remember, networking is a two way thing. Not simply what can I gain from others, but what do I have to give as well.
- Get a Mentor: Surround yourself who you admire or feel have had successful careers. Ask them questions and learn from their life experiences.
- Obtain Relevant Market Data: Speaking with the HR community or establishing a relationship with a market recruiter can give great insight on the types of jobs that do exist and how to put yourself in a position to be qualified
- Avoid Group Think: It is human nature to care about what others think. However, be careful not to lose track of yourself during this process. Over-worrying about, “Others didn’t do this,” or “I will make less money than my friends,” or “what will my boss think” can be paralyzing. Work in facts and be true to yourself and your own passions.
- Be Reasonable and Don’t Let Money Drive the Bus: You are young in your career and can afford to take calculated risks! In any move, duties you like and duties you don’t like will be there. Does the decision add to your skillset? Even if it doesn’t feel like your dream job, does it put you down a path that makes sense for your long term goals? Money will come and with increased experiences (so will defining what your dream job even is).
Careers will evolve, and as you grow and gain life experiences your goals will change. I leave you with one of my favorite quotes, “Sometimes we sail with the wind, and sometimes against it, but sail we must. And not drift, nor lie at anchor.”
Take calculated risks, trust yourself and work hard, and most importantly…keep moving!