Holding a gun changed everything. I was passionate about politics. I was in my dream career working in counterterrorism. Everything led up to this moment, training basically to be a spy. Then I picked up a gun for the first time.
It wasn’t me. That stomach-churning moment helped me realize that passion isn’t everything. That’s because there’s an enormous gulf between what you love and who you really are. I loved learning about diplomacy but career coaching lets me be who I am. It’s hard to imagine how divergent my former job is from the one I hold today. Which is why it’s important to assess. Take a hard look at what you are doing and ask yourself if it’s right for you. Here’s how to know if you’re choosing the right career path.
You Think About Work When You Aren’t Working
I’m not talking about obsessing over how much your boss bugs you or why you didn’t get a promotion. I’m talking about that challenging problem you manage to solve during your evening jog or morning shower. Yes, thinking about work during your every waking hour is deeply unhealthy. Yet if you love solving those workplace puzzles when you aren’t in the office, it’s a good sign.
You Want Your Boss’s Job
Another good way to know if you’re choosing the right career path is if you dislike your own job but really, really want to do what your boss does. Let’s face it. There’s a universe of difference between working an entry level job and being a senior partner or manager. Your job may require a lot of filing, paperwork, even getting coffee. Your boss may be litigating million-dollar cases or closing deals. If you can see a line between your job and your boss’s, then that’s an indicator. Which isn’t to say it’s easy. You may need additional education or training. Coveting the corner office at least gives you a guidepost.
Your Business Is You
And business is booming! It doesn’t matter if someone else signs your paycheck. Every one of us is an entrepreneur. As co-authors Reid Hoffman and Ben Casnocha explain in The Start-up of You, the business of you requires assets, aspirations, and market realities. If you are developing a skill set in your job, then you are building assets. If your boss or boss’s boss is doing what you want to do, then you have aspirations. The last thing is to examine market realities. Just because your biggest dream is to be a newspaper editor doesn’t mean the marketplace will support another one.
You Love the Extra
You often stay late or lose track of time. You don’t dread overtime. If you get lost in your work, then you can feel secure about choosing the right career path. Obviously, constantly skipping nights out with your friends is a bad idea. If you’re staying late because you’re terrified of losing your job, that isn’t ideal either. I’m talking about working on a project so intently that when you glance at a clock you notice it’s almost 8 p.m. and not six like you thought.
People Often Say, “You’re Good at Your Job”
If coworkers or superiors are constantly complimenting you on the quality of your work, it’s a sign you’re in the right place. However, if you have a hidden talent that is never expressed at the office but a source of admiration amongst friends, it may be worth pursuing. Sure, you may never be a successful concert pianist but you might discover unexpected joy and even a career path as a teacher or playing piano at a lounge.
Finally, there’s a world of difference between checking in on your career path versus finding the right career. Assessments can often help you find a path but that doesn’t mean the jobs they offer as options are the right ones. Working in counter-terrorism may have looked good on paper but my true path has been as a career coach. I wish you luck finding your own.
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