I love the advice to “do what you love” as much as the next person. But sometimes, when it comes to navigating your career and finding your vocation, the platitude falls short. It’s usually given by people who have found what they love and have done it for a long period of time (but may have forgotten how they got there). It’s easy advice to give, but incredibly hard to follow
If you ask yourself “what do I want to do?” you end up with too many options—most of which are more likely to be pieces to the puzzle rather than the full picture. Instead, consider these four questions:
1. What problems do I want to solve?
Thinking along these lines gives you insights into the kind of values and issues you care about. It gives you a foundation. Do you want to help homeless people? Help people travel more? Inspire others to change their lives for the better? Find out what problems you want to solve, then you can begin to look into industries and job titles.
2. Whom do I want to serve?
This one’s important. Sure you might like to work with animals, but what about veterinarians? You might like helping people heal, but what about working with hospital administrators and/or sick people? Who do you want to provide services to? Because if you can’t jive with your clients, co-workers, or customers, you won’t last long.
3. What can I do better than others?
This one takes some reflection, but think about what people come to you for…When people ask you for a favor, what are they asking you to do? Chances are it’s probably what you’re better than most at.
4. How do I want to be known?
When you tell people what you do, are you proud of that narrative? Here’s the trick when it comes answering this question: you might be tempted to start naming job titles at this point but try, instead, to focus your answers on qualities. After naming a few qualities like ‘kind, caring, driven, and organized,’ you’ll start to notice a trend which then leads to vocations.
Throughout your career, you’re going to be presented with countless opportunities. Just because something seems like a good fit on the surface doesn’t mean it’s something you should pursue. The goal, therefore, of asking yourself these questions, is to build a framework—a benchmark that allows you to narrow your choices and think more clearly about the kind of career you want to build.