Several years ago I was questioning my career trajectory and, as any lost soul on the internet often does, decided to go on a digital journey to learn more about myself. I came across many self-help tools and strategies and decided to share my favourite ones below:
Myers Briggs Test
Insights: These tests are enlightening for two reasons. First, you learn about your own personality. Are you introverted and sensitive? Maybe public speaking is not your dream gig. Are you highly analytical? Have that “J” on the end of your four letters? I bet your house is organized. This test provides very useful information about your strengths and weakness — not just in your personal life, but also as it applies to your career. Second, one cannot help but notice that your personality type is only 1/16th of the possible types in the world. Reading the other 15 types and learning about their strengths and weakness was extremely insightful for me, especially in the context of team building and collaborative work.
Insights: Narrowing down my skills and passions was made possible by filling out a little Venn diagram exercise called the Ikigai (see below), which is a Japanese word for reason to get up in the morning. Filling out one wasn’t enough though, because at first pass, my list was too general. For instance, graphic design includes many disciplines and while I love making logos, I am really passionate about information design and data visualization. To discover this, I created a new Ikigai specifically for graphic design and several other interests from my list.
The tool: If you click here, you can download a .pptx version that you can fill out to save trees.
Insights: I am sure you have heard of prototyping products, but have you ever considered prototyping your career? Executive director of Stanford’s design program Bill Burnett delivers a great TEDx talk about designing your life. During his talk, he introduces an exercise to help you fully realize three different versions of yourself without actually committing to living out any of them. The best part is knowing that your future selves are already out there, living your prototype. Find them, talk to them and learn from them. What is it like to work outside all day with others? What is it like to lesson plan for kids? Someone out there would love to share their experiences giving you valuable insight into their day to day environment.
The tool: This one is all about imagining possible futures:
- Start this exercise by imagining that you put your heart and soul into living the best possible you right now in this moment. Imagine you are fully satisfied with the career you have now and how that would play out many years from now if you gave it your all. Let’s say you are a nurse and you decided to advance this field with your dedicated efforts.
- Now imagine a different you, maybe you have always wanted to be a rock climbing guide. You spend most of your free time climbing and getting new climbers involved in the sport that brings you joy. What if you gave this career all of your energy and effort. What would that look like for the next five to ten years?
- We are not done yet. Do this again for a third version of you. Maybe you wanted to drop everything and homeschool your children. What does that look like ten years from now?
Now compare your thoughts. Which imagined self felt right?
Insights: This was the hardest exercise to complete, but also the most fulfilling. I recommend doing this last. Sounds kind of silly right? “Of course I would write down ‘famous actress’ or ‘astronaut’ into my future!” I thought this too at first, but when I really sat down and thought about my own future, I was trying to find what contribution I would like to share with the world.
- Step 1: Write a current biography
- Step 2: Now write a biography that you would want to be true ten years from now.
- Step 3: Compare them. You have ten years! What are your next steps to make your future a reality?
On this career journey I discovered my true passions, what 10 years down a path might look like, and what I’d like to contribute to the world. I learned that I want to change the way information is communicated especially in government sectors. Now that I found my calling, it is much easier to say no to projects/opportunities that do not align with my career vision.
I hope some of these tools will help you clear a career path through a forest of possibilities.