In the many career workshops and coaching discussions I have held over the years, one of the common issues that comes up is that many people have no idea what they want to do with their careers. 

The reality is that you can’t have a flourishing career if you have no idea what you want to do, so it’s an important issue to resolve.

So, how can you find your career path?  Here’s a simple acronym that I have found helpful over the years.  To make it easy to remember, I use the word PATH:

P is for Prerequisites: This is an important aspect that is often overlooked by people.  Possibly because it’s too practical.  The prerequisites are the deal-breakers.  They’re the factors that should be considered before any decisions are made.  Here are a few factors that I think should be considered.  Some won’t matter to you, but some may well be genuine deal-breakers:

  • Money.  The obvious question to ask yourself is whether or not you will be earning enough to cover your household budget.  You may also have financial aspirations to weigh up.  Another consideration for you may be how much more you would need to earn before you would consider leaving your existing role.
  • Work/life balance.  This is especially important if you have a family, but really should be a consideration for any person.  What are the requirements in terms of hours, travel, weekend work, evenings?  Compromising on this one could have serious ramifications down the track. 
  • Distance to work.  Some people hate commuting, some people don’t care.  Know who you are before you make decisions.
  • Working with others.  Some people love working in teams, some could think of nothing worse.
  • Large or small.  Some people feel as though they are selling their soul by working for a large corporation, whilst some like the security.  Some people love the idea of contributing to a small business or even working for yourself.  Similarly, some people are happy to work for profit making enterprises, whilst some would prefer the not for profit sector.
  • Indoors or outdoors.  I prefer air-conditioned comfort, but others may think that there’s nothing worse than being cooped up in a cubicle all day.
  • Style of management.  For many people this may not be an issue, but some people are very particular about the sort of manager that they feel comfortable working with and this can be a deal-breaker. 

These are just a few factors to consider when working out your career path.

A is for Attributes:  Peter Drucker says that we should be aiming to work in a situation where we operate with our strengths 80% of the time.  You have been given particular strengths and abilities that are unique to you and should be used to maximise your career possibilities.   However, if you don’t know what those strengths are, or have lost confidence in them, you will struggle to do this effectively.

Find out your strengths, write them down and confirm them with people you trust.  If you don’t think that you have any, think again and stop being so hard on yourself.  God has given you gifts, talents and abilities that are unique to you and that you can make a decent living from.  Make it your highest priority to identify what they are so that you can find a role that utilises them effectively.

T is for Training/Experience:  To me, this is an interesting component of the process of deciding what to do with your career, because what you have studied or jobs you have done in the past can either open or close doors for you.

Firstly, it can open doors.  Obviously, any formal qualifications are helpful, and in some vocations, crucial to your future career.  Similarly, as you look back over your career, there will be aspects of certain roles that you will be able to build on for the future.  Be on the look out for transferable skills.  Is there a particular skill or competency that you learned from a certain job that could be transferred to another industry?

Your previous training and experience can also close doors for you.  You may have completed a particular degree then realised that you don’t want to work in that industry.  Similarly, you may have worked for a particular organisation that you would never want to go back to.  Sometimes closing doors is as important as opening them when trying to find out what you would like to do with the next stage of your career path, so don’t be afraid to exclude possibilities on the basis of past experiences. 

Some people live with regret because they have never been able to put into action the qualifications that they have earned.  They almost feel guilty about “wasting” the time that it took to gain that experience.  It’s my belief that learning is never wasted and this experience has helped to shape you.  Your mind is better off for the process of learning and it’s never too late to learn something new.

H is for Heart:  Someone once said, “Find a job you love and you’ll never work another day in your life.”  Once you’ve identified your Prerequisites, your Attributes and your Training, the challenge is to find a role that enables you to tap into your passions.

You may have a particular passion that makes this choice obvious.  When I worked in a mining town in Western Australia, I met a few guys who were nuts about trains.  They had the good fortune to be the train drivers of the huge trains that carried the iron ore from the mines to the ports. 

For me, I am passionate about developing people, so as long as I have an opportunity to do this in my day-to-day work, there are a variety of roles that I could choose from with my future career.

For some people, their passion may not enable them to earn a living that meets the needs of their prerequisites.  You may love gardening, or knitting or have other hobbies that you may not be in a position to make a living from.  If that’s the case for you, then make sure that any career decisions that you make still allow you to enjoy the aspects of life that you are passionate about.

I hope that there was something here that was helpful for you and wish you all the best on your career path.

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