What do you want to be when you grow up?
Ironically, my answer in first grade at Holy Name School was a businessman. However I must confess, when our librarian Ms. Heinz asked the class that question in 1988 I really didn’t know the answer. Baseball player and doctor were already said by other classmates … and … businessman did sound cool.
We are asked from a very young age what exactly it is we want from our careers. We are influenced by our family, friends, and own values. We begin to form our opinions and thoughts to this question through school, after graduations, during our first jobs and for some, right up until retirement. This question is flat out scary.
Your career is your journey through learning work. It is where you will spend countless hours in decision making for rational, social, and psychological factors.
How do you pick one thing you want to do for the rest of your life? The task of knowing if you like something without trying it is close to impossible. Even if you have the theory down, you still need the physical resources, practice and education to break into most industries. Very few people have the insight needed internally and externally about a given industry to make an educated decision. Not to mention the difficulties that could arise if an industry changes, or more importantly your preferences change.
At some point you have to make a decision
Here are 3 pieces of practical advice to help determine if an industry is right for you.
1) Talk it out — Reach out to 3 of your friends, family, or people in your existing network. Ask them to grab a coffee, drink, or take a short walk with you. Use the experience as a time to explain what you are interested in and gather their thoughts. Target people who you already trust in opinion and also people that have real life experience. Talk out your thoughts and gather feedback that you can later apply.
2) Get Involved — Look into joining 3 groups in your local area related to the industry that interests you. Networking from the beginning will help establish relationships and also your reputation. Surrounding yourself with like minded people, who are already involved, will help answer your questions and address your concerns quickly. You will be able to observe behavior and see if it relates to your interests and values. These are the people that you will be working with regularly and dealing with throughout your career. Get involved and see if it is the right fit for you.
3) Educate, Educate, Educate — Read 3 articles, journals or books related to the industry. Write 3 responses or journals related to what you have read. Educating yourself to everything about the industry and also learning to express your thoughts regarding it. Reading will help you get perspective about industry leaders and their thoughts on various topics. Reading various sources will broaden your scope and help you make your own theories about industry topics. Writing responses and journals will help identify if you like talking and discussing the topics related inside this industry. The more that you are able to read and write about a given topic the easier it will be to identify if you love it. Education will be the power to make informed decisions about the industry.
The goal should be to identify an industry that you are interested in and determine if you want to make it a career. These are 3 simple practical ways to gain exposure to an industry. They will help clarify your thoughts and educate you about what the career really entails. The low risk exposure to the industry will help determine if you love the industry but not a specific job or if the industry is completely wrong for your individual goals. Follow your passion, your values, and your skill set to put yourself in situations where you can find success. At the end of the day, you are the ultimate decision maker in your career.