When you’re a kid and you constantly change what you want to be when you grow up, it’s pretty cute and kind of funny. One day you want to be a fireman, next you want to be a doctor and the next day you want to be an acrobat.
However, when you’re an adult, switching between career path ideas rapid-fire can become problematic. Your changing focus results in a lack of momentum and success in your career. So how do you pick a career path when you want to try everything?
First, jot down a list of the jobs that most commonly occur as desirable to you. Then ask yourself the following questions to help narrow your list down to a more reasonable size!
Is it really what you want?
The first step is to check in with yourself. Are the things on your list what you really want? Or are they things that society or people in your life want? Focus on things that have a natural pull for you, that you find intrinsic enjoyment in, rather than the things that people in your life or society respect.
For example, you may want to be a Brew Master at a local brewery but also think that it would be great to be a lawyer because your parents are lawyers. If that’s the case, you need to get to the root of what’s driving that desire. Is it really you? Or is it the people around you?
Is it cool to learn, or cool to do?
The second thing is to distinguish between the things that you would like to learn and the things that you would actually like to do.
There’s a difference between being interested in something and wanting to do it all day, every day. For instance, say you think it would be cool to be able to manipulate someone’s body like a physical therapist. Take a moment and consider whether you want to know how to do that, or if you actually want to do it. If it’s the first, cross it off your list.
What’s your underlying drive?
The third thing you need to do is identify the core desire beneath your different career ideas. For example, someone may say, “There are so many things I want to do – I want to be an actress, a musician, a painter, and I just can’t decide. I want to do them all!”
If you think about the career paths they named, there are some core underlying elements. They’re all physical, creative jobs that involve self-expression.
If you have a pool of jobs, instead of starting with “which of these jobs do I want to do?” take a moment to identify what these jobs have in common. What’s the core desire that they fulfill? Once you identify that, you can more easily pick one of the careers that best meets that need.
How else could you engage with an interest?
Lastly, not everything you enjoy has to be a part of your career. Even if you have five different things that you want to be doing, like being an archaeologist, child therapist, nutritionist, lion tamer, or volcanologist, they don’t all need to find expression in what you do for a living.
Focusing your career on your most marketable interest doesn’t mean turning your back on the other things you enjoy. They can be hobbies, extracurriculars or volunteer work. You can feed different parts of yourself with different parts of your life.
Hopefully by applying these frameworks against your different career ideas, you can narrow your options down to a more reasonable size. Once you do that, you can pursue your one path whole-heartedly instead of feeling scattered trying to do so many different things.
About the author: Alison Cardy is the author of 5-star-rated Career Grease: How to Get Unstuck and Pivot Your Career and a career coach who specializes in guiding men and women all over the world through career changes. For more information, check out her Step-by-Step Career Change E-Course.