Are you struggling with how to choose a career that is right for you?
You either don’t know how to pick your dream job from the million of options out there. Or you might have found a fulfilling career once (or at least you thought so…), but have lost interest over time. In any case, you feel lost and unsure which direction to go next.
We know this feeling all too well!
We actually had two problems before we decided to quit our jobs and become digital nomads. One of us was lucky enough to love what they do until it drove them into burnout. And the second one was far away from burning out because they were dead bored and not sufficiently challenged by their work.
The good news is that we found a way to find clarity for ourselves and we can help you do the same.
In this post, we’ll help you to answer the question that keeps you up at night.
How to choose a career that is meaningful to you?
In the following, we’ll lead you through 6 questions you need to ask yourself to get closer to your dream job.
These questions will help you to understand better who you are, what is important to you when it comes to picking a fulfilling career, and ultimately, what career path is the right one for you.
We know, nobody wants to be a geek. But hey, the best you can do to yourself is take a pen and paper and try to answer the following questions for yourself.
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1. What does success mean to you?
From early childhood on, we are asked to think about our dream job: “What do you want to be when you grow up?” Yes, it’s a playful question, and yet, we are already getting trained then to define an ultimate goal of our existence.
We have to be something. Become someone. And, inherently, we grow up defining ourselves with our jobs.
We create this ideal vision for ourselves and we’re marching towards our career goal. We pick our studies, go through internships, polish up our resumes. Get the job, work hard, get promoted. We’re following the path to success.
And then, after a long and strenuous walk, we finally reach the top of the career mountain. We get that title, make that much money, and are being recognised for our successes.
Are we happy now? Muah… But why not?
While climbing up the mountain, we have been building up a lot of expectations. Getting to the top of our vision was not only supposed to be some sort of finish line of our career race. We also believed it would give us the ultimate happiness we were seeking.
So when we get up there and the rush of adrenalin has faded, we feel exhausted. Where the heck is the happiness that we were expecting to find up here?
Our work environment and society identify success with fulfilment.
But what is success? Reaching some KPIs, gaining a certain status, being admired by others …
We don’t have to tell you this because you probably know a dozen examples yourself. Whether you have seen it in your own circle or you take a look around at the headlines of any celebrity magazine: Money, fame, and success don’t make you happy.
Instead of chasing our ideas of how happiness could look like – on our LinkedIn profile, bank account, or our fancy kitchen countertop – Why don’t we focus on what gives us true happiness and fulfillment INSIDE?
Once you understand that, you will realise that most people who we believed to be successful, are the farthest away from personal success.
Stop trying to impress people around you. Start impressing yourself!
- When was the last time you had a big sense of achievement? What was it about?
- If money was not an issue, what project would you start today?
2. Who is your authentic self?
Who are you? No, we’re serious. Who are you?
We don’t mean your job title. We also don’t mean your role as mom, dad, sister, brother, girlfriend, or husband. There will be a million others with the same title or social role as you.
We mean: What makes you you?
Do you know what drives you?
What are your deepest values and highest dreams?
Which environment makes you thrive the most?
Do you know the real you?
We can only know how to choose a career that is meaningful to us if we understand what “meaningful to us” means.
You see our point, right?
The secret is to, for a moment, forget everything you know, and feel instead.
Here’s how. Start by thinking about who you admire and if there is anybody that makes you boil from envy.
And then, settle for more.
We love this concept that Haylie introduced on her blog The Morning Buzz. Don’t accept anything less then who you want to be. “The only difference between you and someone you envy is, you settled for less.” – Quote by good old Dr. Phil.
Forget about what looks good on your CV. Or what brings in the money. Forget about what your friends or parents or co-workers say. Listen deep inside and explore which ideas give you a feeling of comfort.
- Who makes you teeth-wrenchingly envious? What do they have that you don’t have?
- What is your deepest dream?
- Do your daily actions work to bring you closer to your dream?
- What work would get you there?
3. What are your priorities for a fulfilling career?
We know what you’re thinking. This soul searching is nice and all, but when does it get practical?
Don’t worry. We’re getting there now.
Do dive deeper into the factors of how to choose a career, we would like to refer back to the article How To Pick A Career (That Actually Fits You) by Tim Urban on Wait But Why. We’ll lay out below our main take aways.
In order to choose a fulfilling career, you need to consider a multitude of factors. You can view these factors as the different voices in your head. Something like good cop, bad cop. Each of the factors is important. However, your task is to figure out which ones deserve your priorities. Often times, your priorities will emerge from the areas which you feel that are currently lacking behind. These should then be your focus of change.
Go through each of the tentacles and define what they mean to you.
- What are important factors for you in the PERSONAL leg?
- What are important factors for you in the LIFESTYLE leg?
- What are important factors for you in the SOCIAL leg?
- What are important factors for you in the MORAL leg?
- What are important factors for you in the PRACTICAL leg?
- Which areas are currently lacking behind / you want to focus on in the future?
Further, Tim describes that your pool of career options is the overlap between (a) careers you want, and (b) careers that are possible.
Now, this is important. Although we love Tim’s graphic below, we would like to challenge you to be extremely critical about any obstacles you might see in reaching your WANT. Challenge the REALITY.
For example, you want to ditch your job as business consultant and fly to the moon instead? Dude… do you know what REALITY means? Sorry to disappoint, but this career path will not end up in your option pool.
On the other hand, if you are that business consultant but your true passion is actually food and you would rather open a poke bowl place, that might be a far stretch but doable. Yes, you might not know anything about the hospitality industry, but we’d say it’s not impossible!
Map your option pool.
- Based on Tasks 1-3, what are your WANTS?
- What are constraints that eliminate options in the WANT field?
- What is the resulting OPTION POOL?
4. Are you giving your best at what you do?
We recently read the book Guide to Greatness by Robin Sharma. In one of the chapters, Robbin is talking about giving the best in whatever you do. His concept moved something in us and we would like to share the essence of his idea with you:
Excelling in what you do is a form of self-fulfilment.
In simpler words: How well you do your job will determine how good you feel about your job.
We know what you’re thinking. “Didn’t you say that success does not equal fulfilment?” Yes, you’re right. But don’t miss out on one very important detail.
Not giving your best (for whatever reason, even if you don’t like your job) becomes an accepted way of acting. Your actions become your habits. Your habits become your mindset. And there you have the perfect mess!
Your mindset is your guiding force. It’s a subconscious mantra in whatever you do. If you develop a mindset of resentment and sloppiness, it will stick with you. And then, it won’t matter what career you choose, it will never give you fulfilment.
Instead, create a mindset of fully investing yourself in whatever you do, regardless of how big or small the task. Be great at what you do! It will increase your self-worth.
Reflect critically on your current or past work ethics.
- Are you giving the best at work?
- What is currently missing that prevents you from giving your best?
- How can you introduce this missing piece?
5. What does your daily agenda look like?
Do you know the saying “Show me your friends, and I’ll show you who you are.”? It means that who we’re surrounding ourselves with will have a direct influence on us and will tell who we are eventually.
It’s the same with how you choose to spend your time. “Show me your agenda, and I’ll show you what’s important to you.”
You guessed it. We’re talking about work-life balance. If the only thing you do is work, we promise, sooner or later you’ll hate it. It doesn’t matter how much you love your dream job, if that’s what occupies your mind for 90% of the day, you’ll run into a problem.
You wonder, why we’re saying this? After all, you’re reading this article because you have a shitty job, not a dream job. Yes, BUT.
Your career is only one aspect of your life. Yes, it’s a major aspect. But still, it’s only one aspect. That means that in order to have a fulfilling career, you need to work on having also the other puzzle pieces in place. Aim not only for a fulfilling career, but for a fulfilling life, in general. It’s all about balance.
So before you move on to another job that might leave you as unfulfilled as the previous one, think about the other elements in your life. Your hobbies, time you allocate to self-development and self-care, time you spend with family and friends.
What does your agenda look like? Make those areas not only theoretical priorities in your life. Give them practical importance by adding them to your agenda.
Once you have the corner stones of your life in place, you can move on to how to choose a career that is giving you fulfilment.
Think about other priority areas in your life and make sure you practice a healthy work-life balance.
- What are activities outside work that give you fulfilment?
- How much time are you allocating to these areas of your life?
- What do you need to fix besides your career?
6. Do you allow yourself to take a break?
Before moving on to the last point, we would like to applaud you. The fact that you’re reading this post shows that you are working hard to create a better reality for yourself. You are not accepting to settle for less and this fact alone will make you grow beyond what you think is possible now.
Let us share a little analogy.
Even the best writer in the world reaches a writers block at times. How do writers overcome this block? They typically take a moment to step back. They stop writing and put their mind on other things to allow fresh ideas in.
You are the narrator of your life. Whatever you think, becomes your reality. So when you are stuck at any point in your life, you need to step back. Take some distance from your current routine, to get fresh inspiration for the continuation of your story.
Maybe there’s a reason why your mind doesn’t want to give you the answer about how to choose a career that’s right for you. Maybe it’s a call to stop. Take a break.
It’s easiest to create some new mind space by creating physical distance. After one year of traveling around the world, we can say that we entirely re-invented ourselves. And if that’s something you dream to do, then we invite you to read our Sabbatical Guide and Digital Nomad Guide to learn how you can do it.
We understand of course that travel is not the solution for everybody. If a career break is not for you, let us tell you this.
Your most productive and creative self comes out when you’re most relaxed. So take a break from the hard thinking and searching all online job market sites for the most fulfilling career. Go out and spend time on what you love doing and allow yourself to rest. You will know the answer when the time is right.
Dedicate time for self-care.
- How long have you been searching for a fulfilling career?
- How much pressure do you give to yourself?
- What can you do to let fresh ideas in?
How to choose a career that you love
Finding your dream job can be a long process. Reaching a fulfilling career and doing what’s meaningful to you requires to understand what fulfilment means for you in general. Make sure to allow yourself time to step back and reflect on what is important to you.
Download our Free Workbooks
Are you serious about starting to work on a more fulfilled life and career? Then we suggest you to download the free workbooks in our Resource Library. There we guide you through a series of exercises to understand the current pain points in your daily life, set a vision, define goals, draft an action plan, and track your progress.