|  May 10, 2017

Must listen: If you’re not sure what to do with your life

Over the years of working with clients on their job searches I often encountered a problem that I didn’t feel equipped to solve. 
It was the question of, “What you do think I should do with my life?” – more specifically, “What should I do with my career?”
First of all, there’s no way I can answer that for anyone – only they can answer that for themselves. As time went on though, I realized how I could guide them in answering that big question for themselves.
The the other day, I listened to an amazing podcast that perfectly crystalized a lot of the things I believe on this topic. If you are not sure what to do with your life, or what your next career move should be, this is a must listen.
Here are a few amazing nuggets I know you’ll take away from the episode:

Figuring out what to do with your life or career is NOT a simple problem with a simple answer. 

It is super complex and what Dave Evans (who teaches the Design Your Life course at Stanford) calls a wicked problem where “the criteria are changing all the time” and a solution that worked one time, might not work again in the future.

Because of that, you can’t approach solving it the same way you might for a simple problem.

You’re not going to have a linear path you can follow and then arrive at a solution. As Dave says, “You have to wayfind. And wayfinding means taking one step at a time knowing something about the direction you’re going, trying a few things, you know, tuning it up and then doing it again and doing it again. And life is like that.
This is 100% true when it comes to your career. Clarity doesn’t come from thinking abut this problem and looking inward — instead it comes from putting yourself out there, trying things, collecting data, and trying more things.
It’s like pulling on a string over and over again until you hit the thing.

There is no “the thing” – there are many things.

This one really hit home for me. You don’t have a job or career soulmate. There are MANY things you could do with your talents that would be amazing.
From the episode: “So the problem with the current approach that lots of people are taking is it starts with the wrong question. And the wrong question is, how do I figure out that one best solution to my life? There is one exclusive, unique, optimal version of me. And I’m supposed to already know it. And I’m probably already late. And how do I figure it out? And how would I know if I knew? How can I be sure? And we think all those questions are the wrong questions.”
Putting the pressure on finding “the one” is going to drive anyone crazy. It’s not realistic and simply not true.

You need to embrace that fact and dig into it

Since we know there isn’t a job soulmate out there for us, we need to explore our options.
In his class and workshops Dave has people come up with three different versions of themselves, where they’re doing different things and their lives look different.
For figuring this out in your career, I’d encourage you to take this a step further and actually get out there.
Talk to 5 people who are living each life (or doing each job) and get more data. See if you can shadow someone for a day, intern, volunteer. You’re not going to get real answers on what’s right for you until you actually try.

Know what’s in your control and what’s not

The last thing the podcast addresses is when certain paths don’t seem possible.
Vendantam,the host of Hidden Brain, points out that “People often spend years feeling frustrated about their constraints. Let’s say, for example, you dream of being a musician but no one will pay you to do that.”
Dave points out at this is something that is outside of your control and therefore you might need to move on from. 
“If you can’t do anything about it, if it’s not actionable, it’s not a problem, it’s a circumstance. And a lot of people have a problem that isn’t a problem, it’s just a circumstance.”
This is very true. There are some career transitions where you can (and should) take action – you can take a course, fill a skill gap, customize your resume, and in any way, make yourself a better candidate for a specific job or goal.
But if you can’t take action, you should move on to something in which you can.
As you can tell, I’d highly encourage everyone to listen to this episode of Hidden Brain. Even if you’re feeling settled in your career and life there is a lot to take away from it.
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