I am in my late 20s and I am completely lost. From my college course to where I’ve ended up today, I seem to have always made the wrong decisions career-wise. After obtaining a degree in a course that I hated, I went on to work in the healthcare industry. After nearly 3 years there I left and completely changed my career. Since then I have worked in journalism, PR and now marketing. All these jobs are areas I thought I would thrive in but instead they’ve dragged me down – I’m not built for them and now feel I’ve wasted so many years chasing a ‘dream’ that has proved to be a nightmare. What’s worse – now my CV looks like I haven’t a clue what I want to do with my life. I suppose I don’t. I’m turning 30 this year and I’ve recently started a new role in a new city. One month in and I hate it; I know it’s going to be like the rest of the roles I’ve fallen into. Already my work is slipping and I’ve just been left to my own devices. I’m so lost; I don’t know where to turn. I feel like I’ve just drifted for the last few years and now I’m not sure where to turn or what options I have. I know this job isn’t me but if I leave I’m back to square one. Is it normal to be so lost at nearly 30?
You are not alone and you are not as lost you may think you are. It’s so common for people to feel this way. We think we are going to be hit over the head with the perfect job but usually it takes time to find your passion. You are right to seek help now as you are approaching 30. It’s time to start building the bridge between where you are now and where you want to go. You don’t have to have experience in the same industry so don’t fear the switching. Just get very smart about the links between these moves. It might not be obvious …but if you put your mind to it there must some thread as to why you chose the course you did.
The most important thing you can do is tell your own story. It doesn’t matter if there is not a direct linear connection between these jobs what matters is the way you make it a story.
A few months ago I went to an event and heard a woman speak about getting her business funded. She came from a corporate background and all the VCs wanted proof of concept – They look for patterns that show that you know how to run a company. Unfortunately those patterns are often male…and that you have already run a company. She had neither! So she told the story of how she created the patterns herself – to show the skills they were looking for. No she had not been CEO of her own company but she knew how to multi-task. She knew how to work under incredible amounts of stress. She knew cost accounting. She knew how to lead a team. She knew how to run global projects on her own.
She got funded.
So now it is time for you to find your patterns. Startup your career. Look at what you have done and what you want to do and put together your story in a way a straight resume wouldn’t. It is up to you. You own the story and only you can tell it.
First think about each of these jobs. What exactly dragged you down? What activities drained your energy? Why?
What people did you not enjoy working with? Why?
Now… think about the opposite. Search your memory for what aspects you did enjoy. What activities gave you energy?
Write down the things that interested you and the things that drained you.
Second make a list of what you learned at each job. It can be about people, listening, organizing – what skills and strengths did you gain? Think back to the VC…what patterns can you see (or embellish?)
Are there any links?
Start to draw connections between your interests and your strengths.
Third…do some research. Where would these strengths be valued? Talk to everyone you can about your interests and strengths. Find out how they got to the place you want to be.
Lastly…dig into you. On a personal level…you may need to do some soul-searching.
What are the barriers between what you thought you would love about these jobs and why you ultimately didn’t thrive? Is it the job? Is it fear of not being able to do the job? Lack of confidence? Fear of public speaking? Not being able to communicate effectively with a team or superiors?
What were the things you felt inadequate about? If it is just a skill set you are missing — get it. Take a class. Get a mentor. Ask. If it is something else…then seek some help. There are all sorts of things out there from classes like Toastmasters to a life or career coach or therapist. It can be affordable and nothing to have a stigma about. You have to get all these doubts out of your head. It’s about getting over barriers and getting to know yourself.
One other thing to ask yourself honestly…is it just that is hard work? I have to agree with Ashton Kutcher’s recent advice. He said, ”I believe that opportunity looks a lot like work…I never had a job in my life that I was better than.” Just know that there are going to be long nights and hard days but the more you can get into the things that energize you the less work it is!
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