This Weds 9th Sept in Holborn, London, I’ll be talking to an eclectic range of Psychologies magazine readers about how we instinctively advise others – and ourselves – about how to approach big career decisions. Maybe you’ll be in the audience (you still could be by clicking here!) and whether you’re a recent graduate, a 30-something ‘stuck’ quarter-lifer or a 40/50/60-something keen to help your child, partner, sibling or friend make meaningful choices, this 1.5 hr workshop might just help.

If it’s a 20-something you’re advising (or if you’re a 20-something), having got them through school and maybe university, you could be forgiven for thinking, ‘I’ve done my bit. The worst is over. They’re ready to take their place in the world.’ In fact, a bigger challenge lies ahead – their transition from education to work, or from a job that’s so-so to work that is life-enhancing and meaningful.

At Eyes Wide Opened, one of the biggest insights we’ve gathered is that people are often asked the wrong question about work. And the worst is “What do you want to DO? ”.

We need to ask questions that they can answer, that lead somewhere and reveal something new to them. Each revelation can give them energy. The process of self-discovery is eye-opening.

There are several questions at this life stage. The first is ‘what makes you stand out?’. What makes you unique? What is your unique combination of skills, qualities, motivations that sets you apart? No two people will have the same set of exam results, plus skills, plus experience, plus circumstances, plus sense of humour plus … you get the picture.

The second focus area should be the quality of decisions. By knowing themselves (or yourself if it’s YOU you’re advising!) more fully, they stand the best chance of making better decisions. They have a stronger idea of what suits them, how they like to work, what builds their energy (and what deflates it).

A ‘career’ is not what many young people are after. Nowadays people are likely to have several careers. What people need is a great place to start work and to begin that journey of discovery. We rarely land our dream job at first, but we learn through that first experience and move on to the next thing. So, if they or you are struggling with what to do in life, a breadth of ideas, interests, skills, starting points, aptitudes and personal qualities is what you’re seeking to uncover.

5 useful questions for the career-ponderer

1. What does work mean to me today? What are my expectations of it? What do I want it to be? What are the words, feelings, success factors?

2. Who do I know who’s happiest in their work? Why is this?

3. What am I good at? The object here is to write down a long list. Start with skills from work or education. Look at personal circumstances, experiences, childhood, part-time jobs. Cover tiny little qualities as well as things you have a natural aptitude for. With big things, break them down into component parts.

4. If I knew then what I know now: Imagine you’ve been asked for some advice from someone three years younger than yourself. What five points do you want to pass on? We never stop learning, so what have you learnt about yourself in relation to work during the past three years?

5. What or who gives me energy? Divide this down into activities; people; habits and rituals; environments etc.

Just remember one thing. We have a wealth of experiences tucked up inside us. The key is unlocking them to unearth the meaning they hold for each of us. The raw material is there. We just need to make some sense of it!

Alastair Creamer
Eyes Wide Opened

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