“What do you wanna be when you grow up?”
As kids, we were constantly asked this question and were expected to have a legitimate answer in high school. If and when you get to college, you’re asked to declare a major, but so many of us pick one without really knowing what we want to do. You can be anything. You can do anything. But there’s a million options out there – how the hell are you supposed to know?!
Some people grow up knowing exactly what they wanna be and go for it, others just end up sticking in the same job for years because it’s just easier. Over the course of a lifetime, the average person spends 90,000+ hours at work – if you ask me, that is way too much time to spend doing something you hate. I feel so blessed that I can honestly say that I love what I do, but figuring it out wasn’t easy.
I got my first part-time job at 16 and not really knowing what I wanted to do. I was never really sure if I’d make it in the tech world. I always loved it, but at one point I almost flunked out of engineering school and even post graduation, I still didn’t have a lot of confidence. So, how do you go from not knowing what I’m going to do with my life to finding my dream job? Looking back there were several things that led me to figure it out.
1. TAKE NOTE OF WHAT YOU LIKE
In any job, there’s going to be things that you like and don’t like. Take note of what you like, they may serve you later. I’m not talking about the menial every day tasks, but the different aspects. For example, my first job out of college was as a Business Analyst. I liked knowing the business side of things, but it bored me out of my mind not being involved in the technical side of things. When I was a QA Analyst, I loved knowing the ins and outs of an application, but I wanted more of the business side. Knowing what I liked, and didn’t like, played a big part when I was figuring out what I wanted to do.
2. DON’T BE AFRAID TO DO SOMETHING DIFFERENT
When you’re used to doing one thing, sometimes it’s scary to think about switching gears or going into a completely new field or department. If you like the field you’re in, then definitely stay! But if you’re still unsure, maybe it’s time to try something new. My first job ever was working in retail at Forever 21 in high school. Throughout college, I was as a front desk receptionist at LA Fitness. My last few years of college I spent working at an IT help desk on campus. Post graduation, I worked as a Business Analyst and Quality Assurance Analyst before realizing that I wanted to be a Project Manager. Trying different jobs can be a bit intimidating, but all the times I pivoted my career were probably the most rewarding. I would walk in so scared and unsure that I could do the job and I walked out so much more experienced and definitely much wiser. If it doesn’t work out, it’s never to late to try again.
3. LEARN MORE ABOUT WHAT OTHER PEOPLE DO
When you’re at work, you’re number one priority is doing your job. But as with any job, you’ll need to work with other people. I’ve always liked learning what other people do and how they got to where they’re at. Ask around, get to know what other people do and how it affects the business overall. Ask things like what it is that they do and how does it contribute to the bigger picture? What do they like and dislike about the position? It’ll give you more exposure to the business in general and to other jobs that you may not have known about. It’ll even give you some good perspective on how to better do your job. Learning more about other people’s jobs led me to finding more about the sales and marketing side of things (a whole new world for me) and it also made me realize how perfect my job is for me.
4. KNOW YOUR STRENGTHS AND WEAKNESSES
I know this point may come off as cliche, but self awareness is so important. One of the biggest reasons I love my job is that it really utilizes my strengths and doesn’t emphasize my weaknesses. I was never really the strongest programmer, but I really like knowing the logic behind the technology. I still wanted to use my technical skills, but I knew I wouldn’t be that successful as a developer. Being an IT Project Manager gives me the opportunity to do that – I’m still able to understand what’s happening in the backend of an application when I talk to developers without having to get down in the weeds and writing lines of code.
5. REMEMBER THAT MONEY ISN’T EVERYTHING
Research from a Gallup survey found that “people with an annual household income of $75,000 are about as happy as anyone gets.” Money isn’t so great when you’re stuck in a 9 – 5 that you hate. There have been several times when I was willing to take a pay cut if I knew that that job would launch me further in my career in the long run. Know your worth, but don’t get caught up with the numbers. It will fall into place as and when it should – as long as you put in the work.
Your dream job isn’t going to just fall in your lap, but you’ll never get it if you don’t at least try. Some jobs take years of experience to get to, so don’t get discouraged! But if you’re unhappy and feel like you’re destined for something else, don’t sit around and complain about it – go and take steps towards your goals! Life’s too short for mediocre, but also remember that good things take time.