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Craft a career with intention.

Evaluating the career choices you’ve made and the result of those choices gives perspective. Sometimes, they can be wake-up-call. A call for change if you are getting too comfortable.
Today we will explore the importance of reflecting on your career choices and challenging yourself to craft a career with intention.

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What does your typical workday look like? When you hear ‘your work’, do you feel energised or exhausted?

When you think of ‘your career’, what words come to your mind?

Did you envision your career to be high flying? Instead, are you left directionless and disappointed?

Many of us are emotionally invested in our careers. It’s because we spend half our waking hours working. I know my work is a big part of my identity. I struggle to look at it as a mere transaction. It has to be creative, meaningful and worthwhile. That’s where it can get painful.

We are not always able to do the work we love or get the job we want.

Meetings, monotony, conflicts, competition, emails, long hours, rejection and so on can leave us wondering what are we doing with our life. We don’t get paid enough to put up with this. This leads us to question the future of our careers.

Confused about your career?

Good news! You aren’t alone. There are so many out there (including myself) who feel lost in terms of what they should do in terms of their career.

“I will be 29 next month I have wasted 6-7 crucial years of my life and I am still confused about what should I choose as a career?”

“I’m very confused about my career. I really want to be successful but I can’t make a decision. My views change constantly. How can I choose a better career?”

“I am 28 years old. I quit my job as a software developer 2 months ago. Now I don’t know what to do with my life. I want to make a career as a film director. Everyone is laughing at me when I told them about it, even my close friends and family members. Is it too late for me to go to film school?”

“I’ve wasted 18 years of my crucial years doing random work. Taking up jobs that paid the bill. Now I am stuck and I feel lost. I don’t know what my future is in terms of work, what my goal should be, what do I want to achieve”

When I look back on my own career, the past 15 years have been purely accidental. I started my career at Oracle. Went on to pursue my MSc in England and MBA in Paris. I’ve landed up working in retail real-estate, luxury fashion, tech, design, events and now co-founded Human-Matter with Katerina.

My career path has taken diverse routes. In terms of both, industry and role. I’ve realised my varied experiences has equipped me to know a little about a lot. While there’s usefulness to have a breadth of knowledge, it brings along its own share of anxiety. When people ask me what I do (in terms of work), I’ve struggled to communicate. If I needed a job, I’d find it challenging to write up a CV that suits a particular role.

But being confused is good. The uneasiness pushes us towards clarity.

If you are a mountain climber or a sailer, you are aware that a crucial navigating skill is learning how to recognise that you are lost, figuring out where you are, and deciding what to do next.

My confusion pushed me to reflect on roadblocks I’ve stumbled upon in my career. I am a generalist. Reflective journaling has made me realise it’s critical to focus on depth of expertise. It’s important I connect the dots and identify my core competencies. If you are in a similar space, this piece on T-shaped skill by Jason Yip is a great read.

Your career is not linear.

Some of us are bouncing from job to job. We are clueless about what our real passion is or what we are really good at? Some of us want to be self-employed but are not sure what business to start?

Most of us feel lost about our careers at one time or another. It’s rare for someone to ‘just know’ what they want to do with their lives. The majority of us have to work at it. So if you feel confused about your career, don’t be hard on yourself.

You are not to be blamed. Unfortunately, our society pushes us to feel ashamed when we are confused about our careers. At the age of 17, society expects us to know what we want to do for the rest of our lives. We are pressured to make educational choices without any real-world experience.

Our education system has and is training us for career possibilities that will be obsolete in 10 years. Technology is rerouting the path taken for centuries. How can we invest in the education and training for a career that may cease to exist in the future!

For a positive change, first, accept and be open-minded that our careers can take new paths. New paths can have different forms.

1. Lateral direction: A move that involves changing the job/function, but not necessarily the pay, status, or level of responsibility.

2. Enrichment: Enriching your current position by job crafting. Job crafting is about taking proactive steps and actions to redesign what we do at work, essentially changing tasks, relationships, and perceptions of our jobs.

Job crafting definition by Tim & Baker (2010)

“An employee-initiated approach which enables employees to shape their own work environment such that it fits their individual needs by adjusting the prevailing job demands and resources”

The premise behind job crafting is that we can stay in the same role, getting more meaning out of our jobs simply by changing what we do and the ‘whole point’ behind it.

3. Realignment: It might seem counterintuitive, but this career path means moving downward in pay, status, or responsibilities for long term benefit. An example is Diya Jolly. She climbed a billion-dollar corporate ladder by taking a lower title and less pay, three times.

Craft your career with reflection

A way of being intentional with your career choices is through reflection. Periodical reflection of your professional life gives clarity, develops self-awareness, and builds self-confidence. A way to include the habit of reflection in our lives is by practising Reflective Journaling. This practice allows you to reflect on your professional experiences and learning.

An honest practice of Reflective Journaling will help you –

1. Identify career mistakes

2. Review career learnings

3. Develop critical thinking

4. Enhance problem-solving skills

5. Become emotionally mature

6. Gain clarity concerning a career path

A consistent practice of Reflective Journaling means you describe and analyse your emotions. Studies show that this can help you manage work stress and feel more positive about your work in the long term.

Reflective Journaling that focuses on career development is effective when it combines critical thinking and cognitive restructuring. Some examples of how people benefit from it–

It cements new concepts in your mind: Tara writes in her journal every time she’s attends a training class. This helps her reflect on what she’s learned at every training session.

Track work progress: Raul writes in his journal every evening. He critically what he does at work. The self-awareness developed through Reflective Journaling has helped Raul become empathetic at work and a better listener.

Find career purpose: Jo felt unfulfilled in her family business. She began writing a journal every morning to find purpose in what she does. Jo can now identify ways how she’s able to make a difference in her customer’s life. It’s rekindled her motivation and enthusiasm towards the family business.

 

Tiny tips

1. Identify career mistakes

2. Review career learnings

3. Develop critical thinking

4. Enhance problem-solving skills

5. Become emotionally mature

6. Gain clarity concerning a career path

 



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