“Be still, alone with your own self. The world will willingly give itself to you unmasked. It has not choice”
– Franz Kafka
If you are just starting out looking for a job or changing direction mid-life, it may be daunting. Most of us find a job by pure chance. No clear direction, no great “aha” moments, no epiphany. We fumbled around trying this and that until eventually discover something we love. Sadly, for some of us, a job that we love is beyond reach. There may have been clues along the path to a fulfilling working life that we have missed. Why didn’t you pick up these clues earlier?
We first decide on a job at a time in our lives when we are least equipped to step into the future. As teenagers our minds are not fully developed, we have difficulty seeing the consequences of our actions, we live in the present and are not mature enough to learn much from the past. And yet, the most momentous decisions we need to make about what to study in our final school years and what to study afterwards are often made at a time when we are least able to make an informed choice. No wonder we get to our middle years and start to ask ourselves: “How did I get here?” “This is not what I want.”
What about those people who say they always knew what they wanted to do when they grew up? Beneath the surface if we care to look, there are other factors at play. Often as kids we can live the lives of our parents. Our parents wanted x and y and we unknowingly complied so that the essence of “discovering” what we love was lost at an early age. Our purpose and mission in life is set for us well before we are equipped to make the decision for ourselves. So, in the middle years the questions we ask ourselves can arise again: “How on earth did I get here?” “Is this what I really wanted?”
Another scenario emerges during the school years. Teachers start to let us know what we are “good at” and what “we suck at.” Guess what? We may be “good at” maths or geography but do we want to spend the rest of our lives doing maths and geography? Alternatively, being told we “suck at maths” or being told “you are not college material” can taint our view of ourselves for a long time. We stop taking risks with our learning and narrow the horizon by resisting exploration, making mistakes or having deep discoveries.
So how do we learn to listen to ourselves? Helpfully, parenting is now leaning more towards promoting choice and independence in children. In some Scandinavian countries these days children get to follow their own interests from an early age with outstanding educational results. Other schools, popular in the United Kingdom, conduct all learning outside in the natural environment. Traditional subjects are learned alongside making a campfire, playing in the mud, hiking and setting up a tent. Children learn about chemistry, managing risk, delaying gratification, and helping others. In doing so, they learn about themselves.
In choosing a job you love you may have sacrificed security of income over time. If we succumb to security over love, we may find ourselves enslaved in a job we detest, utterly miserable for many years to come. We cannot always love our job or expect a pleasant time all the time. Doing anything worthwhile does involve challenge, and love is not without challenge. While security may be a factor in our choices, security without love is self-defeating.
If you are a teenager starting out in a new job or in middle age wanting a change of jobs, there is always time to start anew. So how do you commence the journey of finding the job you love?
- Make some time alone to check in about what you love and why. Learn to listen to yourself: what interests you, what do you care deeply about, what energises you?
- Search for clues about what you loved doing as a child. Being outdoors, working with your hands, jigsaw puzzles and mind games may be some examples that come to mind.
- If you are already in a job or searching for a job, write a fearless inventory of pros and cons of the job. Find out your reasons for loving the job or walking away. Practise telling someone your reasons.
- Be awake to discovery of something you didn’t know about in the job or something you would like to know more about. Does the job spark your curiosity? Does it leave you feeling flat?
- Experiment and see where a job might lead you. Dip your toes in first. Start small. Maybe volunteer for a job that interests you, take a course in a related field, talk to people already in the job.
Try it and see!