We’ve all been there at some point – scrolling on your phone, flipping between mind-numbing Facebook and Instagram feeds and random recipes on Pinterest when suddenly, that feeling creeps in…the overwhelming feeling that you’re not where you want to be in life.
And to make matters worse, you also have no clue what you should do with your life, nor do you know how to get there.
Whether you have a general idea of what you want in your life and career (or what you don’t want!), having the clarity and understanding of the first step to getting it is a whole new ballgame.
Luckily, finding an answer to the question “What should I do with my life?” isn’t as daunting as it seems. In fact, I think everyone should walk through this exercise periodically to avoid getting too comfortable and too far away from “the goal.”
By following these nine steps, you’ll be on your way to finding an answer to help you know what to do with your life, at least for now, and maybe even a few actions to can take to get yourself there.
Let’s dive in and break down each step of this process. Be sure to have a real piece of paper, an actual ink-filled pen, maybe even a journal, and a healthy dose of patience with yourself as you get going.
1. DO SOME GOOD OLD-FASHIONED SOUL-SEARCHING.
Put pen to paper and write your thoughts, feelings, and goals for both the professional and personal aspects of your life.
A study by Dr. Gail Matthews found that people who set and write down their goals are 42% more likely to achieve them than those who don’t. What’s even more incredible about this statistic is that people are also more likely to EXCEED goals when they are written down. Your brain connects with written words differently than when you type or say them aloud, so don’t skip or skimp this step. You’re building a foundation here.
Goal Setting Tips
When it comes to setting goals, it’s essential to be reasonable and realistic. You’ll have no options if you set too many parameters for yourself. You might have an ambiguous goal, and that’s ok, but add as much specificity as you can and prioritize your goals. Categorize them into complete deal-breakers, nice-to-haves, and “for the wishlist.” This will help you create parameters and guiding principles without giving yourself so many checkboxes there’s no possible way to fill them all in.
Think carefully about your goals, and set some challenging but achievable targets. You’ll be surprised at how much difference it makes to have a clear goal in mind. Finally, remember to review your goals regularly and adjust them as needed. Goals are good, but they aren’t evergreen.
Once you’ve got a good idea of what you want and what’s critically important to you, start thinking – and envisioning – what it would be like to achieve it.
Answer These Questions to Gain More Clarity
– How and what could you do to get one inch closer?
– What steps do you need to take?
– What resources do you need?
– Who can help you?
Answering these questions will give you a better plan of attack and help break down a seemingly overwhelming process into incremental steps that are much more likely to help you achieve your goal.
2. WHAT’S WORKING AND ISN’T WORKING
Sometimes it’s easy to get caught up in the day-to-day grind and forget why we’re doing what we’re doing. Checking in with yourself regularly can help you stay on track and ensure that you’re still moving toward your career goals. Remember that word patience I mentioned above? Yep, it will come into play many times, and this is one of them – once you identify – and become acutely aware of – what isn’t working, panic will set in. You will want to make changes immediately.
But wait! We’re only on step two, and we have a whole lot of planning to do before changes can occur. Settle in and trust the steps you’re taking.
3. IDENTIFY YOUR SKILLS
There’s always room for growth and development, and by identifying gaps in our skillset, we can work on filling them. This can open up opportunities and make you more marketable in roles more closely aligned with your goals.
When it comes to career skills, it is important to think about both your strengths and the skills that you enjoy using. Consider what you are good at and what comes naturally to you. What experiences have you had in your professional life that have been most satisfying? On the other hand, think about the career skills that you would like to learn or develop further. Is there a particular skill set that you feel drawn to? Taking the time to identify your career skills can help you to find a career path that is a good fit for you.
Don’t know your strengths?
If you’re having a hard time figuring out where to get started with this strengths and skills component, consider taking an assessment to help you understand yourself better.
Our favorite is StrengthsFinder.
4. RESEARCH JOBS THAT USE YOUR SKILLS
Once you’ve taken the time to really think about what you bring to the table, it’s time to start researching jobs/careers that might be the best match for you. In other words, now we’re ready to start figuring out what you should do with your life.
Luckily, many resources are available to help you with this research.
How to Research Jobs that Utilize Your Skills
Start with researching online job postings that match your criteria, keywords, or skills you want to use. This can help you get a sense of the functions and titles that align with the way you want to work.
I also suggest researching specific companies and organizations that interest you or have a culture that resonates with you and your core values.
Once you come across a few, dig in and find out what they’re looking for in employees. Tap into your professional and personal networks; people you know may have insights into jobs – and companies – that you didn’t even know existed. If you’re feeling overwhelmed during this research phase, that’s normal! There are many options out there, and it can take time to narrow things down.
5. HAVE INFORMATIONAL INTERVIEWS
You can learn a lot about a career or company by interviewing people working in the industry or company of your interest.
These interviews are designed to give you information about a particular career rather than to get you a job. However, the relationship you’re building could also come in handy when you’re job searching!
When done correctly, informational interviews can be beneficial in exploring different careers and deciding which one is right for you. These conversations also help you build your network and develop relationships with professionals in your field.
How to Navigate an Informational Interview
To set up an informational interview, reach out to someone you know or have been referred to and explain that you are interested in learning more about their career. When you get to the conversation, be sure to show genuine interest in their career. Ask them questions about what they do, how they got there, what they like, and where they’re challenged.
When you leave the interview, thank them and keep an open door to future conversations, or ask for additional connections from their networks so that you can add rings to that web of connections for more insight!
6. SAVE MONEY
It’s always a good idea to save money, regardless of how comfortable or antsy you are in your career, but if you feel a change is afoot, tightening the belt is a very good idea.
Having a safety net gives you options and freedom; rather than putting too many parameters on your job search due to financial needs, savings and low debt can provide opportunities and flexibility when it comes to starting a business or stepping into a career that may pay a little less but comes with a lot of positive trade-offs in return.
7. GET STARTED
Get real-world insight into the subject or function you’re interested in! The best way to do that is to find a way to do it yourself, even if it’s just on a small scale or with an independent project.
If you can’t get paid work or feel like you need more experience before doing so, look for pro bono or volunteer opportunities – anything to get started. And while you’re doing that, try to find a way to do an extra project or two related to what you want to do. That way, you’ll not only get real-world insight, but you’ll also start building up your resume, portfolio, and skillset. Just because you don’t get paid doesn’t mean it doesn’t count!
8. TAKE A LEAP OF FAITH
The term “leap of faith” often evokes a sense of risk and uncertainty. And while it’s true that taking a leap of faith can be scary, it can also be an incredibly rewarding experience. After all, life is all about taking chances, and we all play it a little too safe a little too much.
Risk is inherent in making a change or leveraging opportunities; we can’t grow unless we’re willing to step out of that comfort zone. That said, there are many ways to mitigate risk and make career moves responsible. Starting with #7, above, is an excellent example of how you can dabble in a new career field without cutting the cord and diving into the deep end without a PFD when you don’t know how to swim.
If you’re feeling stuck in a rut or simply looking for a way to shake things up, consider listening to your gut just a little bit more and taking a leap of faith. It might just be the best decision you have ever made.
9. EXPECT YOU MIGHT FAIL
We all know that failure is possible when undertaking any new venture, but it’s often hard to keep that in mind when we’re feeling optimistic about our chances of success. It’s important to remember that even the most successful people have had their share of failures along the way.
The key is not letting the fear of failure stop you from taking risks and trying new things. Accepting the chance of failure and focusing on what you can learn from any potential setbacks is a much more proactive and productive approach. A positive attitude and willingness to learn will go a long way here, and you’ll be in a much better position to achieve your long-term goals.
WHERE TO GO FROM HERE
If you’re feeling lost and uncertain of your next steps, don’t worry; you’re not alone. Take these nine concrete steps to find career clarity and the answer to “what should I do with my life?” If you need extra guidance and accountability along the way, we invite you to book a free strategy session to hear what our customized career plan would be for you.