Confused? How to get Clarity and Direction for your Career Future

By Kris de Jong of eclipselifecoaching.com, Auckland NZ

I have many clients come to me because they’re confused and uncertain about their career direction and paralysed with indecision about where to go next. They say things like:

I don’t know if I want to stay in this job/role/field forever

I just fell into this job and now I feel trapped

I hate my job but I can’t do anything else

There must be something better out there but I don’t know where to start

I’d really like to do such-and-such but I haven’t got the qualifications/skills/experience

I’m stuck in a rut and I can’t get out

Sound familiar? You may have been having these thoughts for months or even years, and feeling like there’s no escape from the day-to-day drudgery of your current job. So how do you get out from under this stagnation and start moving again?

Think about the ‘what’ before the ‘how’

Much of this confusion and insecurity comes from thinking about the ‘how’ before deciding on the ‘what’. It’s incredibly difficult to think clearly and make a plan towards something before you even know what you’re aiming for. You just get bogged down worrying about all the things that could go wrong, or all the obstacles in your way, which just adds to your muddled mindset and feelings of frustration. You end up sabotaging yourself before you even get started.

The key to ditching all your jumbled thoughts and indecision is to start with the end in mind, and only when you know what that is, make a plan to get there.

Know your values and priorities

There’s no point in pursuing a career path if it doesn’t align with your values and priorities, so make sure you know what they are. Write down your top 5 core values and your top 5 priorities and use them as a reference for decision-making and planning.

Examples of core values may be:

  • Honesty
  • Integrity
  • Ambition
  • Kindness
  • Justice
  • Wealth
  • Love

Examples of priorities may be:

  • My family
  • My health
  • Financial security
  • Career advancement
  • My own home
  • My friends
  • Having fun

Everyone’s values and priorities are different. If healthy living is a core value, you may want to think twice about a marketing role in a soft drink company. If a priority is making lots of money, a job as a sales assistant in a fashion store is not going to cut it (although it could be a stepping stone to bigger things).

What’s the best career for me?

Not surprisingly, job satisfaction comes from doing what you’re objectively good at, and what you enjoy doing.

Try writing down the things you know you’re good at, and then another list of the things you enjoy doing, and see if you can find some intersectional points. For example:

I’m good at:
  • Empathising with others
  • Staying calm in stressful situations
  • Sports
  • Listening
  • Playing guitar
  • Helping my friends with their problems
I enjoy:
  • Exercise
  • Music
  • Talking to people
  • Variety
  • Reading
  • Working in a team
  • Being involved in my community

Looking at the commonalities of this particular list, pursuing a career in the police, social welfare or medical services may be a good fit.

At this point, you may also realise that you’re actually in the right career, but just not in the right role, department or organisation. If that’s the case, think about creating challenging career goals within your industry.

You may want to write down several career options and think about the pros and cons of each. Ask yourself what sort of work environment you want to be in. Indoors or outdoors? In a large or small company? Private or public entity? Do some research and learn more about what’s involved in working in specific jobs. Talk to your friends and family, and write down ideas and options in a journal to help you get clarity.

Make a plan

Once you decide on what you want, I recommend writing a specific goal around it. Make it challenging but achievable, and include language that resonates with you. Going back to our example, it may look something like this

“To feel challenged and to be doing good in my community as a full-time police officer in the NZ Police Force, based in Auckland and earning at least $50,000 per annum by December 2021”

Now that you have a clear goal, you can plan how to get there:

Strategies:

  • Get information from the Police website about what’s required to join
  • Create a timeline for achieving the tests and qualifications needed
  • Schedule my exercise (running 3x a week, CrossFit 3x a week) to prepare for the fitness test in July
  • Study relevant courses 7pm to 9pm Monday to Thursday
  • Volunteer for community work once a week
  • Put my application in before September 2020

The road to your goal won’t be smooth, and you’ll have setbacks and disappointments along the way. You will probably let yourself down from time to time, but go easy on yourself – just get back on track the next day. Make sure to adjust your strategies as circumstances dictate. Have contingencies in place for potential obstacles. Expect things to go well, but not perfectly.

Be open to opportunity

Remember also that nothing is set in stone, and although you want to do the best you can to work towards your goal, no-one can predict what the future holds. Your priorities may change, or you may see opportunities further down your career path that you hadn’t thought about before. There’s nothing wrong with changing tack later if you’ve done your research and you think it’s best for you.

If you’ve been languishing in your current role and feeling frustrated about your career future, now’s the time to make a plan and get moving toward your ideal job.


Kris de Jong

Kris de Jong is a qualified and experienced life and career coach based in central Auckland.

He has a background in people management, leadership and communication, and has been successfully coaching individuals and employees for over 12 years.

Kris has a BSc in biology and psychology, and Cognitive Behavioural Coaching certification from Prof. Stephen Palmer, one of the pioneers of positive psychology coaching.

Find out more at eclipselifecoaching.com