If you’re stuck in a job or a field you don’t particularly like, you’ve probably found yourself asking some tough questions: How did I wind up here? Will I be here forever?
As a young professional, you might feel compelled to decide right this very moment what your future career path should look like. In reality, you don’t need to have it all figured out. Most people don’t. Most college students don’t know at 17 or 18 what their career passion is. They may not know at 27 or 28, or even at 47 or 48.
Even if you don’t know what that perfect-fit career is just yet, here’s how you can actively explore your options and work toward the job you love:
You have more than one talent
You might like your career track, but don’t want to give up other skills and passions. Or you might feel limited by your chosen career track and want flexibility to do something else. Either way, you have every reason to explore other avenues.
In today’s world, it doesn’t make sense to focus your work around one single talent. You’re a multi-faceted individual with multiple talents. If you want to learn or do something else, go for it.
Diversify your career portfolio
In my career, I’ve held roles as a C-level corporate executive, a consultant, a sales and marketing expert, an executive career coach, a hypnotherapist, a bestselling author, a college professor and an entrepreneur. And, yes, I managed to make money at all of them.
Developing several talents and building multiple income streams provides insurance. You don’t have to put all your career eggs in one basket. It’s just like diversifying risk in your investment portfolio. One stock or bond might not do so well this year, but you can always count on another. It’s the same with your career.
Try something else on the side of your full-time gig to expand your skill set and build career insurance.
Think outside the one-track career box
Think about what you like to do — not just what your schoolwork has proven you’re good at, but what you really enjoy. Then think of careers that need someone with those skills. You can likely try a few different things at once.
- Math whiz? You don’t have to choose between becoming an engineer or a math professor. You could pursue a career as an engineer and work as a math tutor on the side.
- Love to write? You could make a living as a journalist and write short stories and blog posts on the side.
- Great at using your hands? You could develop a talent like woodworking and create a carpentry business while you pursue another line of work.
- Interested in people? Besides customer service or sales, you could also pursue hypnosis, therapy, HR, behavioral profiles or market research.
Sharpen your talents outside of work
You might start your first job and and find it doesn’t require the same talents and skills you thought it would. Though you can succeed at work without putting certain skills to use, find ways to hone those talents and keep them fresh.
- Volunteer or study those skills in your free time.
- Continue to learn about and evolve those skills.
- Get involved with people who specialize in (and are making money) doing what you love.
- Don’t let your skills get rusty.
The more versatile you are, the more career options you’ll have. Down the line, you may be able to turn your hobbies into a lucrative career.
Don’t focus on just the skills your employer wants
Many career experts recommend you focus on a specific skill area or build expertise in a particular function. Recruiters want to put the square peg into the square hole. If your background doesn’t match the job 100 percent, it can be hard to prove a good fit.
Just because recruiters or employers want to mold employees into certain categories doesn’t mean you have to play the game. (Click here to tweet this thought.) Don’t bounce from job to job trying to see what works. Being scattered is not a positive trait.
While you build your resume and work experience, it’s OK to look for opportunities to do more of what you do well, then incorporate those skills outside of your job.
- Take notes about your best talents. Capture proof points in a journal about all of your talents and how they manifest.
- Find ways to incorporate them elsewhere. Stay sharp by using those skills at a side job, through volunteering or by helping friends and family.
- Post your talents online. Tweet about them, showcase your abilities on your blog and let your friends know what you can do.
- Keep it up. Stay sharp and focus on developing your talents. Your knitting skills may not be useful in your customer service job, so knit during your breaks and on weekends.
Focusing on one area may work for some people, but for many, life is filled with so much more than one interest or passion. Keep exploring what’s right for you.
What are some other ways job seekers can pursue their talents and passions?
Beverly D. Flaxington is a two-time best-selling and gold-award-winning author, corporate consultant, speaker, trainer, coach, hypnotherapist and behavioral expert.