Angela’s Situation: I help manage my husband’s office, but don’t really want to be doing that. I am a stay-at-home mom otherwise and taught dance for 10 years. I am unsure what career options would work for me.
Angela’s Question: I know what interests me, but I don’t know how to translate those skills/interests into a job.
Julia’s Answer: This is a situation that trips a lot of people up. One of the biggest mistakes I see people making is thinking too small at first. Here are a few ideas for training your brain to think more broadly about your career.
Find the Interest Behind the Interest
During my brief conversation with Angela, she told me, “I taught dance for 10 years, working with children and developmentally disabled adults. It was awesome and I really liked it. I also love writing and thought that I might enjoy teaching it to those kinds of people, so I signed up to teach a poetry class at the local community center. It was a good experience because it told me I didn’t want that. Writing is a very individual process. Even though we were together in the same room, we weren’t interacting much, which is what I really enjoy.”
This paragraph is full of gold, if you know how to look for it. Before you read any farther, see if you can answer these questions:
- What do you think Angela’s values are, based on her response?
- What qualities or activities would be present in her ideal job?
How did it go for you?
Here are the characteristics I came up with (and confirmed with her):
- Group collaboration and interaction
- Physical activity
- Artistic creativity and expression
- Developing relationships and facilitating growth
- Being a leader/mentor/teacher
- Autonomy / creative freedom to decide how she wants to teach
(This is a key component of the work we do in our individual coaching. Our clients always have a lot of fun uncovering their ideal career themes!)
Think in Terms of a Direction, Not a Job Title
If you decided you wanted to live on the beach, you wouldn’t automatically say, “I guess I need to move to California.” You’d probably want to research lots of coastal areas and see what they each have to offer. You’d want to take other things into account, like climate, proximity to friends and family, and the cost of living.
Job-hunting is the same way. Looking at Angela’s career themes, you may be able to see quite a few potential directions. She would do best to start broadly and narrow down her direction over time instead of immediately jumping to a job title.
She discovered this on her own when she started researching how to become a creative writing teacher and then realized that it wasn’t the job for her. What she needed was to take a more general approach to begin with and brainstorm several different areas and/or jobs that could contain her desired career elements. This saves lots of time and effort in the long run!
Narrow Down Your Options
Once you’ve generated some ideas, you need a way to decide which directions to explore.
Angela was already doing something that we recommend to all our clients: getting out into the real world and trying out different experiences. In addition to the poetry class, she was considering some volunteer opportunities. If you have the time and flexibility, this is a great way to “try on” a career path without investing a lot of time or money in training and credentials.
Besides considering her themes, Angela might also want to take other priorities into account. How much money does she want to make? How many hours a week does she want to work? These criteria will help her filter through potential opportunities and weed out the ones that don’t fit.
I also asked her to tell me how she felt when she was teaching a dance class (since I knew from our conversation that was an extremely positive experience for her). She said she felt invigorated and like she was “vibrating at a higher frequency.”
“That’s great!” I said. “Now that you know how it feels when you’re in flow and enjoying yourself, you can notice what other activities bring up that feeling. That will give you a clue that you’re on the right track.”
Remember: Start Big and Narrow Down
Here’s the “Cliff’s Notes” version of my advice for Angela:
- Describe an interest or experience that you really enjoyed.
- Look at the interest behind the interest – see if you can pick out clues about values, strengths, activities, environment, or other desired qualities. (Extra credit: if there have been jobs or experiences you didn’t like, see if you can pinpoint why. What we don’t enjoy can be a clue to what we would like better.)
- Brainstorm some broad jobs or professional areas that could contain those elements.
- Use test experiences to virtually “try on” jobs and see what you like or dislike about each one. Get familiar with your feeling of being “in flow” so that you can recognize it when it happens.
- Use other criteria (such as finances and desired schedule) to help filter out less-than-great opportunities so you can save your energy for the ones that are a better fit. You can always compromise on these later if you need to.
Don’t Forget to Stick with It
An ideal career direction isn’t something that shows up overnight. You’ll need resilience, perseverance, perspective, and a sense of humor to get you through the journey. It’s not always easy, but remember that you are learning and growing along the way. Finding a career that fits you is one of the most rewarding experiences life has to offer. Good luck and let us know how it goes!
What are some characteristics of one of your interests, and what professional opportunities might include some of those qualities?
Client Feedback on Working with Julia in a Cardy Career Coaching program:
“Julia is an excellent listener and asked really interesting questions that got me thinking outside of the box. I appreciated her understanding with scheduling conflicts, too. Julia was an excellent sounding-board for me!” – Career Direction Clarity + Action Plan Client