This week I received a random Facebook message from a former student of mine.
Degree completed, resumé drafted, his character is infused with endless potential. He’s bright and charismatic, driven and ambitious. Bottom line: The guy’s a total rockstar.
Yet, in his current post-graduation haze, he’s at a complete loss of how to get to where he wants to go in his professional life…
Dear Dr. Popovic,
In our class last year you talked a lot about a person’s “life path”. At the time, I was so immersed in my student life that it didn’t really click. Now, it’s several months after graduation, I’m back home and feeling really confused about my job prospects. I thought I would have the full-time career of my dreams, start paying off my debt, and be so much farther ahead than I am now. I am ready to grow up and I am willing to do the work. I see BIG things for my life path, but I don’t know the right directions to take NOW… Do you have any suggestions?
Although my student’s destination is unique, his newfound professional reality is ubiquitous among recent grads: He’s lost and needs a new map.
Paradox of potential: New perspectives for 2012
Oprah Winfrey stated that “luck is preparation meeting opportunity.” The irony I’ve encountered with my current and former students is that it’s always the most capable and positive students who come to crossroads in the early stages of their careers.
For these bright young people, I suggest using two viewpoints to navigate their “life paths”:
Life compass: Envision your direction
This is the “big picture” perspective on your life as a whole. It entails ALL of who you want to be. It’s the professional, personal, social, health/fitness, economic, and spiritual intentions:
- What do you want to unfold in your life?
- What is a well-rounded, successful life for you?
- What are the opportunities you dream of?
A life compass points you in the direction that you aspire to go in your professional and personal life. By considering these priorities and seeing them on paper, you will establish a stronger sense of purpose in your current and future endeavours.
Here are a few ways to build your life compass:
- Craft a mind map that uses words to visualize, categorize, and delineate ideas for your future.
- Create a vision board collage filled with images and words that connect to important dreams and aspirations you have for different areas of your life.
- Write a business plan for your life, complete with vision statement, budget, and “board members” (family, friends, colleagues) who will be there to support your vision.
Career GPS: Clarifying the routes
Once the direction of the greater life path is clearer, it’s important to clarify the ways to reach the professional destinations of preference. Oprah calls it preparation; I consider it the “doing” that grows your dreams. When executed with efficiency, attentiveness, and insight, this is the type of navigation that helps you build your life path.
Consider what your ultimate dream job is. Is it an entrepreneur? Teacher? Investment banker? Psychotherapist? Nuclear energy engineer? What are the hard and soft skills required to attain excellence in this profession? Use this ideal goal as the destination to work backward from in the current moment. Grow yourself and craft your routes so that you are a stronger, more capable, and trustworthy professional upon arrival. Most importantly: Be willing to do the work to get yourself prepared.
Assume that en route to your final destination, there will be several “stops” along the way. It may take 5 to 10 years for you to be prepared for the arrival of this opportunity.
Continue asking yourself questions like these to explore possible routes for your career:
- What can you do NOW that builds the foundation for your future direction?
- What skills and experiences can you attain to be ready for the opportunity when it shows up?
- Is it important to join a public speaking club like Toastmasters to develop your communication and presentation skills?
- What certifications and education are required to be competitive for this dream position?
- Do you need experience facilitating groups and leading teams?
- Are you volunteering and demonstrating service to your community?
You have the opportunity to craft your route. Write down these new ways of being and doing and post them where you can see them daily. Strive to see your destination with a heightened awareness.
With 2012 on the horizon, NOW is the perfect time to establish a revived sense of direction.