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The No. 1 Reason You’re On the Wrong Career Path – And How to Get Back on Track

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You did everything you were supposed to.

When you were in high school, you looked toward college. “Someday you’re going to be a doctor, lawyer or even a business owner,” said your overbearing-but-well-meaning parents.

When you arrived at college, guidance counselors helped you pick the classes you needed to achieve your major — a major you were led to believe was a fit because some curriculum-based test you took in high school said it would be.

When you entered the “real world” you worked hard to please everyone and “earn your rank.” You did anything and everything that was placed on your desk. And you did it with a smile.

Until one day you woke up and asked yourself, “What the hell am I doing?! This isn’t what I want to do.”

You realized your entire life has been actions taken based on someone else’s assignments. You’ve followed this path because it’s the easiest/most lucrative/prestigious/you felt forced into it… Am I right?

But now that you’ve achieved what you’ve been working toward for years, you’ve come to the realization that this isn’t what you want. Even worse, you have no idea what you really want!  You feel lost.

But this isn’t entirely your fault; there’s a flaw in today’s system. We spend hours upon hours learning processes and procedures, rules and guidelines, assumptions and expectations. Yet we don’t put enough time into understanding the most important piece that ultimately leads to our career success.

That important piece?

YOU.

So how do you come to understand yourself and capitalize on that knowledge to get the job that makes you come alive? Here are three areas that are most important to focus on — your strengths, your personality and your passion.

Capitalize on your strengths

Finding what you’re good at and focusing on those traits is always more beneficial than trying to improve something you’re not naturally amazing at. Find tasks and projects that capitalize on these strengths and stick to those. One of the best tools I’ve used to educate myself on mine is StrengthsFinder 2.0.

Trust own your personality

“We are all unique individuals.” How many of us have heard that? As cliche as it is, it’s true.

Your personality is a combination of things you can change and things you can’t (as in it’s genetically ingrained in you!) Of all the personality tests, my favorite is the Meyers-Briggs. It’s amazing how much more clarity you have when you know why you do what you do.

Reevaluate your passion

There’s a question you hear a lot when someone is asking you about your passion. “What would you do even if you weren’t getting paid for it?” To that I say: throw whatever your answer is out the window.

Why? Because ultimately you need to be paid to turn your passion into a career.

Instead, ask yourself, “What’s something people are always complimenting me on that I absolutely love doing?” Now that’s something you can turn into a money-maker.

If we focus on what’s external and play the people-pleaser role, we’ll always feel a bit lost. We’ll lose control over our own destiny.

But if we educate ourselves and understand who we are internally, we’ll build the foundation we need to make decisions — good decisions — based on our own assignment.

Eric Lunsford writes at his blog Coffee & Warm Showers, where he has one goal: to help others wake their true self up and transform into the person they’ve always wanted to be.

Brazen powers real-time, online events for leading organizations around the world. Our lifestyle and career blog, Brazen Life, offers fun and edgy ideas for ambitious professionals navigating the changing world of work.

  • Jrandom42

    Unfortunately, when you’re working for someone else, you can’t help being a people pleaser, if you want to keep the job, earn the money and learn the things you need to learn so you can be your own boss, if that’s what you want to do.

    Never had a ‘what the hell am I doing moment”, even when I got drafted, I knew what I was doing and why. Dad’s advice, “Take advantage of all that you can learn, and then decide what you want to do.” Worked well for me for the past 42 years. I’m being paid semi-outrageous money doing what I do well and love doing. Doesn’t get much better that that.

    Never was much of a people pleaser, but if you can drop a 40 mm grenade through a bunker window at 150 yards consistantly, it goes a long way to pleasing people. :)

    • Anonymous

      That’s an interesting perspective, thanks! I’m glad someone brought up an example that isn’t necessarily in an office environment.

      It sounds to me like you’re doing it right. Understanding that you like to learn, apply yourself in those tasks you’re good at, and focus on doing what you love. And you’re right, when you line your job up just like that, you just end up pleasing people anyway. :)

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  • Craig

    If I only knew then what I know now, I would not have made the same career choice! Too bad there’s not a way for today’s students to connect with professionals to understand what a given job is all about. That’s exactly why we developed Vircara. Check it out….

    http://www.vircara.com

  • Anonymous

    I like this post. Hidden jobs are no longer hidden. Maybe one reason is a wrong choice as well or just out of impulse.