How to tell if a career is right for you

“Don’t ask kids what they want to be when they grow up, but what problems do they want to solve. This changes the conversation from "who do I want to work for" to "what do I need to learn to be able to do that.” - Jamie Casap 

          I was scrolling on Facebook one day and I saw this quote on my news feed. I stared at this long and hard reflecting on my career choice and the university program I had chosen. I started to think about what I wanted to do going forward. It’s a daunting task for anyone but an absolutely necessary question to ask if we really want a career that is right for who we are.

          Often we hear of people who love their job and love what they do, but more often we hear of people who are constantly trying to get that dream position with the dream company. The question is: how do we get there, and once we are there how do we know it is right for us?
          The pursuit of these questions led me on journey of self discovery. A friend recently got a job at Gallup and asked me if I wished to get the Gallup’s Strength Finder Assessment done. In order to find what problems I wanted to solve I had to figure out what skills I was naturally good at and what I was passionate about. Through this assessment I learned that my top three Gallup characteristics were developer, includer, and positivity. I learned that from a young age these are characteristics I naturally embodied. I wanted to develop myself and those around me, I wanted to create an inclusive environment, and most importantly I wanted to create a positive space to enable the first two characteristics.

          After this revelation, my next step was to understand what problems I wanted to solve and how I could use the characteristics that I naturally had over the course of my life to find those solutions. I came across a Ted talk by Scott Dinsmore about how to find and do work we are passionate about. Through reflecting on the opening quote, figuring out what problems I wanted to solve, and getting motivated to learn enough to actually solve them, I have come to learn that the only way we get that motivational drive to learn enough to make a difference is if we are really passionate.

          Sometimes when we discover something new, we engage ourselves in it until we lose interest. However, when we discover a passion, we don’t lose interest, because that passion becomes who we are. This when you have that motivational drive to push through anything. A good analogy is to think about all the courses that you took in your first two years of university or college. Many of those courses were core requirements, courses you had to take, but you may not have been fully interested in. Think about for a moment how you felt when doing work in those courses, compared to courses you actually had an interest in. What was your attitude when doing work for the courses you liked? For me, working on my passion brought a great sense of joy, because it was exactly what I wanted to do. Doing what I wanted to do gave me a drive to keep doing it.

          For me personally, I discovered that my passion was building meaningful connections and enabling people to learn about themselves. When I realized this, I felt a sense of excitement every morning I woke up.  I use to wake up and look at my job and just saw it as means to an end. However, by reflecting and understanding my passion, it changed the way I felt about the exact same job. I had purpose to my responsibilities and I gained a sense of vision of where I wanted to go with every experience.

          When I began to further develop and grow my passion, focusing on what problems I wanted to solve, what skills I wanted to use, and characteristics I wanted to embody, I realized I was incorporating these into every position I ever had. From working in retail to a call centre or working at university, For example, at the call centre I asked if I could facilitate team-building exercise and incorporate them in our weekly meetings. At Lululemon, I began to talk to colleagues about what their goals were and provided insight wherever I could. At university, I asked the Student Federation  if I could lead workshops with students who needed help. Applying your passion in roles where you traditionally don't get an opportunity only happens when you take initiative. When you realize what you want to get out of your experience in a role, take initiative, and present your plan to your manager. Tell them why it is a good idea for you and for the team. I have yet to meet a manager who says no.

          I used more and more of the skills I wanted and was solving the problems I originally identified. Eventually I landed a position as a Learning Specialist where my full-time job is solving the problems that I want to solve. Everyday I get to use the skills I want, do what I am passionate about, and more importantly be who I always have been. When we get to a job where all three of those are present, then we finally know we are doing something we love and have a career that is right for us.

 

Amandeep was a student at York University, where he studied Social Science and did a certificate in Emergency and Disaster management. While in University, he worked with several non-profit organizations including Me to We and Peace by PEACE. He was responsible with curriculum development, volunteer training and student development. Currently he is a Learning Specialist with Telus Health and hopes to continue with side projects within student development.