“What if I fall? Oh but my darling, what if you fly?” – Erin Hansen

When I left university, I just needed a job. The concept that it should be something I was passionate about was pretty low down the list of priorities. I had the usual debts and if I’m honest my search focused on kudos, pay, progression…..but mostly whether they’d have me.

In the thick of finals, I really worried about it; even though it was the nineties and certainly a less competitive labour market than now.

In fact back then, my (shiny) Next suit, a ‘desmond’ in Economics and a fair amount of luck were good enough to see me into a graduate position with Deloitte, which toughened me up and provided a raft of skills I still draw on today.

But, was I doing work that fired me up? No. 

Deciding what we want to do with ourselves can be stressful at the start of our careers, but also at the key forks in the road along the way. Mary Curnock Cook of UCAS, on BBC Radio 4’s Today programme, advised students not to feel anxious if they needed time to find employment that makes the most of not just what they know, but who they are.

While HBR advise that in an unpredictable world, it’s more effective to look for opportunities that will provide incremental steps in a broader direction than traditional career-planning.

Megan McDonough of the Wholebeing Institute suggests that a better question than ‘what do I want to be‘ is: ‘how do I want to be?…what are some qualities of being (versus doing) that fill you up?’  For example, is it important to you to be innovative, creative, logical, brave, caring or methodical?

I don’t think I ever considered questions like that as I ventured out into my first ‘proper job’.

“Your work is going to fill a large part of your life, and the only way to be truly satisfied is to do what you believe is great work.  And the only way to do great work is to love what you do – don’t settle” – Steve Jobs.  If you have 15 minutes spare, his commencement speech from Stanford University in 2005 is an interesting watch.

  • How do you want to be?
  • How do your aspirations measure up against your current position?
  • What’s good and what would you like to change?

If we can support with coaching conversations and career development resources for you or your teams to explore questions like these, do drop us a line – we’d love to help.