From the time we are young children we are prompted to start thinking about our careers with the age old question — “what do you want to be when you grow up?”.
The suggested answers are always given in the form of specifics occupations — lawyer, doctor, architect, etc. Most of us struggle to figure this out, not just as a kids, but well into our careers. Having wrestled with this question for a long time myself and now finally finding myself in a job I am happy in, I looked back on the path I took to get here.
Over the course of 20 years (including college) and 12 different jobs and internships, I figured out which variables matter most to me in my career — autonomy, ownership, a good culture, the opportunity for growth, a broad scope, and a location that works. I actually don’t care as much about function or industry which are the two variables people tend to think about most.
When I started thinking about this, the first realization I had is that it’s impossible to know you want to do something before you have tried it, so racking your brain to try to figure it out is mostly a waste of time. You have to jump in and correct course along the way. Nothing has helped me figure out what I want to do more than doing things I don’t.
The second realization I had is that since we tend to evaluate most things, including jobs, in relative terms, it’s essential to have a basis for comparison. Just because I love what I do it doesn’t mean it’s always easy, but having worked in a variety of jobs, in different industries, in different types of organizations, I feel like I have a great basis for comparison. That perspective allows me to put my current challenges and frustrations into proper perspective.
As a kid, I had no idea what I wanted to do when I grew up. My career has been a process of experimentation and trial and error, which I think is the only way it can be. That process ultimately landed in a position I am very happy in. As the CEO of a small business, I get to set the direction, make decisions, decide how I spend my time every day, and work with people I enjoy being around. I’m constantly learning and being challenged. I sacrificed compensation to get here, but what I’ve gained in experience is more than worth it.
Stay Tuned for Part 2 of this post, coming soon!