Back in the day, when I was at school, our stern Geography teacher, Mrs Starr, doubled up as our careers adviser. She sat us all down in front of computers and had us fill in a careers profiling questionnaire. You made your selection from the multiple choice answers and it spat out a range of jobs. The print out seemed to me to be like one of those fairground attractions, where you put a coin in the slot, the ceramic guru's eyes glow red and a little card pops out of his belly button predicting your destiny.
Apparently, I could choose between being a radio broadcaster, a police officer or a tree surgeon.
What the results didn't tell me, was why.
See, most schools are concerned with which Universities and colleges you could go to and what grades you will get. They don't need to be interested in what you do with your life, because that isn't how Governments or parents gauge their success. Universities and colleges are a little more interested, but they still struggle to integrate self discovery and career coaching into the core curriculum.
And until they do, careers advice is meaningless.
I believe that to make any meaningful decision about your career, you need to first discover who you are. Once you know what 'type' of personality you are, what motivates you and where your areas of strength lie, you are in a much stronger position to start to consider what to do with the talented, unique you that you are.
If I could make one lasting change to the school environment, it would be to include self-discovery as a core curriculum subject. Understanding ourselves provides us with a platform to make better choices, have greater awareness and improve our interactions with others. These are all fundamental life skills.
The good news is, that if you didn't get this education (and most of us didn't) - it is never too late to create your own.
In my book Your Life Plan, I help my readers to rewrite their story as a Hero's Quest. We explore what kind of hero you are and then begin to identify what your Quest may look and feel like. Here are some starter's for ten on how to identify and create a career that feels like a real life Quest.
Profiling tools have come a long way since my teens. In fact, an online search will reveal hundreds of free tests designed to help you understand yourself. Whether you choose the Myers Briggs personality typing ( MBTI), the Strengths Deployment Inventory ( SDI) or any other online test, there are a few key questions to ask yourself in the light of your findings.
1. Where and when do I feel most alive?
You are going to spend a huge amount of time at work - so consider the environments that work best for you. Are you an out of doors person, a team player, someone who likes to see an end product, someone who likes to win? Looking at your peak experiences can begin to orient you towards work opportunities that include them.
2. Swap careers advice for 'life design'
What kind of design would be fit for the life you want to live? How much time do you want to spend at work? Does the line blur between work and play? Do you like clear demarcations? Would you be prepared to take on a riskier design eg. .starting your own business for the freedom to choose your hours or make more money over less time?
3. Get Specific
In an ideal world, when we make a career shift, we do it to move us closer to work we enjoy. A happy working life arises when we use our skills to address an area of interest and do so in the right life design and context. In my work coaching graduates, I've recently been working with sports science students. They all share a passion for sport, but where and how they want to utilize this passion varies greatly. Some want to be outdoors, coaching athletes or sports teams. Others want to be in the lab, unlocking the secrets of exceptional performance. Still others want to be academics or to work for a funding body giving grants or developing policy.
Once you know your passion and your skill set, keep your research broad to narrow down to the right environment for you.
We all strive for meaning and purpose in our lives. If we start by understanding ourselves and find ourselves a Quest or a role we really believe in, we can genuinely become the hero in our own story.
To find out more, please visit my website: ericasosna.com and download your free chapter of Your Life Plan.