Saturday, July 16, 2005

What To Do When You Don't Know What To Do

Every so often there are periods in our lives when we don't know what to do. I'm not speaking of not knowing whether to wear brown shoes or black shoes, or what to have for dinner. I mean the big stuff. Like "my career field is a dead end, but I don't know one that is any better." Or "this 'ol town has run its' course in my life, it's time to move on, but I don't know where to go." (Sounds like the lyrics of a country song!)

First, if you believe there is a God anywhere near the vicinity of this universe, pray. This "step of faith" has several benefits. It taps the main power in the universe on your behalf. It increases your faith, especially if you make it a habit and look for results. And finally, it helps you focus on what you really want, because knowing you usually get what you pray for, you will be careful to pray for what you really want.

If you are close to completing your education, i.e. your bachelors' degree, finish it, even if the last credits you take are not in the perfect career field. If you get in the habit of changing direction in school, you may become a perpetual student. I admit, some folks enjoy being a perpetual student. Most don't. After your initial degree, you will have more time to be a perpetual student of life - focusing on the things that REALLY interest you.

During this time, your other primary area of focus is to identify, list, and prioritize the things you need to do to learn what you want to do. For example, if you have no idea what career field you really want - nothing seems particularly attractive, make the college career counselor your best friend. Take aptitude and interest inventories - again. Focus your energies in finding a career field in something you enjoy doing. The other option is spending most of your waking hours doing something you don't care much about as a means to enjoy a very few number of hours of your life. Granted, a job or career need not be an end in itself. Life does not need to revolve around your job. But, especially for a single person, a job is the center of life, and for 95% of us, it consumes 80% of our waking hours. The quirk in this is that the jobs that are most fun don't pay much. 99% of beach bums, ski bums, vagrants, groupies, artists, and musicians get paid very little.

Once you discover your top three career fields, you may discover a knowledge or experience gap between those fields and your degreed education and work experience. That is where the twin gems of "networking" and "transferable job skills" come in. You need networking to get your foot in the door, and you need to identify your transferable job skills to get hired. And since this new job is in your recently chosen "hot button" career, you will (hopefully) be motivated to do whatever it takes to get up to speed to do your job, or to work your way up the ladder from your entry level position.

For example, in the field of city planning an entry level position could be an administrative assistant, a zoning inspector, code enforcement officer, or a planning technician. The pay for these positions range from the low $20,000's to the low $30,000's. The majority of the intermediate positions typically require a bachelors or master's degree in the specific field of planning, or closely related field such as public administration, urban design, or architecture. A website that lists planning jobs around the nation is the American Planning Association web site at Each state chapter also lists job openings on the web. These chapter sites are also accessible through the web site.

Most people who implement a career change understand that they have two big challenges: lower initial pay than the career field they left, and a steep learning curve that will require lots of motivation, energy, dedication, and a few years of time.

Another thing to remember is that for many, the journey is the destination. The journey can be a very fulfilling endeavor. Often time for many, simply reaching a static goal results in disappointment. It is stimulating and healthy to continue reaching for new experiences, both in your career and in your location.

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