Most of us, to some extent, suffer from inertia when it comes to our careers. We tend to keep sauntering in the same direction until something – usually getting canned – happens to toss us off the path and into the bushes. If you’ve been tossed, how about brushing the grass stains off your shorts and really taking a look at where you are and where you’re going.
Here are some questions to ask yourself. And, of course, answer yourself. Go ahead, you can do it in public. People will just think you have a phone in your ear. Or that you’re wacko. But what the hell.
1. Do you really enjoy the work you’ve been doing? If so, is it because of the work itself, or because of all the hot guys on the second floor?
2. What specifically do you like the best about your most recent job(s)?
3. Assuming the answer to #2 isn’t the hot guys, what skills were you using when you did the stuff you liked best?
4. What was your favorite job of all time? What in particular made it your favorite?
5. What would your worst nightmare, wake-up-screaming-want-to-stick-a-wet-finger-in-an-electric-socket, job be? Figuring out what you don’t want to do can help you figure out what you do want.
6. What is your fantasy job? Yeah, we know – judging the Mr. or Ms. America Pageant (do they really still have those??). Come on now, try to focus on professional stuff, like work environment, tasks you’d spend your workday doing, and type of customers you’d be working with – screaming kids? Corporate execs? Granola goddesses badly in need of anti-frizz products? What’s your preference?
7. What’s most important to you in a job? Do you know you need to be creative? Do you yearn for structure? Do you need your job to not involve people? (just kidding on the last one – if that is, in fact, true, good luck).
8. What are your strengths, professionally speaking? Jack of all trades doesn’t really cut it any more. Three or four strong skill areas will endear you to employers a lot more.
9. What do you suck at? Everyone sucks at some things, though some suck more than others. Guess what? It’s okay to suck. Unless of course what you suck at is necessary for life as we know it. In which case, by all means work on it. But generally speaking, you’ll be much more successful in pretty much everything if you spend more of your time and energy developing your strengths rather than your weaknesses.
10. Am I bullshitting myself? It’s important to dream, and dream big. And go for your dreams. But if you’re blind in one eye and you want to be an airline pilot, you probably need a reality check.