In all of the years that I have spent providing career coaching and counseling to the incredibly bright, motivated, and accomplished students with whom I have the pleasure of working, the one element that seems to be present in many of the conversations is an undefined vision and/or direction.
Many students schedule time with me hoping to discuss their resumes. After all, that is what career coaches do, right? Well, sure…resume writing and refinement is one important part of the career planning process, but without a vision for the direction in which you are headed, writing a stellar resume can be a frustrating experience.
A typical first interaction with someone seeking my assistance goes a little something like this:
Me: “What would you like to accomplish in the time that we have today?”
Student: “Can you look at my resume and help me to make it better?”
Me: “Absolutely…what is your vision for how you will use it?”
Student: “I’m going to use it to apply for jobs.”
Me: “Can you share more about the kinds of opportunities that you are seeking? In what direction are you headed?”
Student: “Uhhhh…I am not sure.”
This is where the real career coaching begins. Every student with whom I work has a unique story, but the following tips are ones that are universal to anyone embarking on this lifelong journey, which will be full of fun, adventure, and surprises!
- Seek out a physical space that inspires creativity. Creativity is key to mapping out your vision, and if you are surrounded by clutter that inhibits you, you may be more frustrated than inspired. When I am working on a new project that requires me to think a bit differently, I find that changing my location helps a great deal, so find a place that will open your mind to possibilities.
- Dedicate non-negotiable time to do this work and protect it! Clear your mind and schedule of all of the other responsibilities that you have so that you can focus on mapping out a direction.
- Do something. What does this mean? Sometimes, we think too much. Do something that allows you to open you mind to allow ideas to flow. Take a walk, practice yoga, bake some cookies, create a vision board, sing loudly in your car…do something that helps you clear your mind of unhelpful and unnecessary clutter.
- Focus on the experiences (professional, extracurricular, personal) that you have had that have truly made you happy. Can you identify common themes? Pay attention to those themes as you uncover your possibilities.
- Differentiate between “what you love to do” and “what you are good at.” A fulfilling career allows you to do what you love to do MOST of the time. Avoid getting into the trap of choosing opportunities based solely on your skills, if those skills are not ones that motivate you.
- Practice flexibility. My brother and his family are currently on a cross-country road trip, and they have been plotting their course for quite some time with a final destination in mind. During their journey, they have made some adjustments not only in the final destination but also in the route that they have taken. This has served to enhance their trip and to manage unexpected challenges that have come up (like a “check engine light” in South Dakota!). Do the same with your career vision. Start with a destination in mind but be open to shifting your course as you make your way.
- Surround yourself with a supportive community and let them know about the journey on which you are embarking. They will help you to celebrate your successes along the way, lift you up when you are disappointed, and brainstorm with you when you are “stuck.”
- Find mentors who have gone through a similar process. Ask them for guidance, share your ideas with them, and allow them to connect you with other people to add to your supportive community.
- Celebrate your victories, both large and small. All too often, we focus on doing the work that is in front of us, and we do not take the time to pat ourselves on the back for a job well done. When I have accomplished something significant, I make certain to reward myself, and I encourage you to do the same!
*This article originally appeared in En Root, OutGrowth’s monthly newsletter. OutGrowth links student leaders of tomorrow with socially-conscious farms of today for out-of-the-office internships. You can learn more and subscribe to En Root by visiting www.outgrowthtoday.org.