Updated: Mar 23, 2019
Back in the day, we used to send our university applications in through snail mail (regular post office!). Like most children of East Indian background are encouraged (read: ”volun-told”) to do – with the intention of eventually attending medical school of course – I applied for the “Natural Sciences” program at McMaster University and a couple of other schools.
I can recall clear as a bell walking to the mailbox that day, envelope with application enclosed in hand, and feeling unsettled. Literally just before I dropped it into the box, I stopped, turned, and walked back home. I promptly opened the envelope, scratched out “Natural Sciences” on my application, and changed it to “Honours Commerce.” I had absolutely no clue what I wanted to do!
And so will many of you, before university and even after you graduate. I’m here to tell you this: It’s ok! You truly don’t need to have it all figured out come that last day of your degree. Some know what they want their next steps to be, and some don’t. And some think they know what they’d like to do, but find themselves disappointed or disengaged from their work down the road. I fell into that category.
Unsurprisingly, the number one reason people feel unsure about what career to pursue is because they don’t know what they are passionate about. And it makes sense why the focus is singularly there. The books and mantras of yesteryears have advised us to “follow our passions” when deciding on a career, and to “figure out what you love to do” and then “believe in yourself.” After all if you do that, anything is possible, right?
While those messages are not bad or wrong per say, they are incomplete. You need to be more strategic than that. More savvy. And much, much more self-aware. With that said, here are the four key elements – taken directly from my upcoming book – that you need to understand about yourself in order to determine the kind of careers that will truly make you soar:
1. Your Performance – This entails the natural, organic, and innate strengths you possess, as well as learned strengths. It includes your cognitive/mental/intellectual capacity, but also natural and acquired talents.
2. Your Passions – Still very important, this entails the unique interests, hobbies, attractions, desires, and dreams that you naturally develop over your early lifetime.
3. Your Persona – This entails the unique values, beliefs, belief systems, character, patterns of thinking, patterns of emoting, and patterns of behaviour that you develop over your early lifetime.
4. Your Preferences – This entails the unique working style you prefer, including different ways of approaching people, learning, and leading, as well as your level of interest in taking risks, working independently, participating in teams, your appetite for academic learning, and preferred learning style.
Most people need time and experiences, through trial and err, in order to figure out their four elements and exactly where it is they fit. Let that happen for you. Breathe, and remember that despite what all your friends and fellow graduates are doing, you need to carve out a path that’s right for you - and on your timeline. And expect to take some erroneous roads and detours along the way. It’s all a part of the process of evolving – not failing. For me, it took about 5 years following the completion of my undergraduate degree – and I don’t regret a single one of them. Happy start to the year 2016!
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