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How To Find Your Right Career Path: Myths and Truths

I notice people tend to think one or both of these methods is how people find out their ideal career path or “right livelihood”:

  1. That it will just come in a flash and then you’re all set for life, you know, like it did for so-and-so (supposedly).
  2. That you can do a few exercises in a book or take a quiz online to find the “one” right path.

Sadly, those thoughts are often accompanied with, “Since those things didn’t work for me, I must be broken. I’ll never find my right career path.” 😔

I have heard something like that so many times and it hurts my heart. Luckily I can reassure them right away, those paths don’t work for most people. You’re not broken, and there is a way to find your path. 🌿

What is it you plan to do with your one wild and precious life? How to know your ideal career path.
Too many people live with this question about their ideal career path, and don’t know how to answer it.

I don’t think either of those expected ways to find your ideal career path is enough for something like deep clarity and knowing where you want to go in life. You wouldn’t be here on this page if you could have figured it out on your own by now.

Figuring out why you’re here on earth and how to make your best career path work in practical ways is big stuff! And yet, the steps to uncover that are simple, just not commonly known.

Why It’s Been Too Hard to Know Your Best Career Path

The public schools in my part of the world were originally designed to create obedient workers, not naturally creative humans who want to truly contribute their gifts.

Maybe that obedience model was the kind of school you went to. I know I did. It wasn’t all bad. Just not enough to find my way.

We are also unconsciously influenced by money-driven mass media to focus on money, looks, and status as signs of success, but that is not satisfying to our hearts. I know you’re about more than external approval.

As a result of all these unhelpful influences, many people spend decades down a road that doesn’t feel “true.” I believe that all that time on a wrong path is the cause of a lot of misery, anxiety, and the so-called mid-life crisis.

image - Maze of confusion

Another factor making it hard to know, is that most people actually can’t figure out their career path or life purpose alone, or at least not without some kind of a map and some input from outside your own head.

It’s not you. It’s just how we are built that we can’t see ourselves without some honest helpful reflection. Like looking in a mirror for the first time.

For instance, people often can’t even see their own strengths, which is a critical piece of the puzzle for choosing your best direction.

Ya gotta pick something that you’re naturally good at (your natural talents) or it will lead to burnout and unhappiness. But if you can’t see your strengths, how can you choose well?

It’s not your fault. But I’m confident you can take action to correct course at any age.

My Winding Path to Career Discovery

I remember as I was nearing high school graduation, I felt very confused about what was out there in the world and how I was supposed to fit into it. It just seemed like I was supposed to go a certain narrow way whether it felt right to me or not.

When I met with my high school guidance counselor, she was mainly focused on my taking more typing classes so I could be a secretary, apparently like women were supposed to be in her mind. I knew enough to know that was not my only option.

Even then I knew something was wrong with the system that the path would still be so foggy after 12 years(!) in school. It really aggravated me. College only helped a little, but not enough. I started grad school as another way to figure things out, but then dropped out to just go out and muddle through.

I tried out many paths less taken as a way to figure it out. Still, I remember spending years in therapy, reading career books, taking career assessments, trying new things, and still feeling like I didn’t know the best use of me.

And then a few things were helpful here and there.

Eventually talking to a career coach helped me choose a simple next step that led to some important awakenings which then led to starting the coaching business I have today.

I have continued learning and refining as I go, and I’ve reached out for help along the way too.

It’s not a destination, it’s a journey because we are always evolving. I’ve actually “discovered” my path many times, such as when I review what’s working in my business and I make adjustments that make it even better over time.

Ironically, all that time exploring about the topic of careers actually led me to being a career and business coach. Turns out I was reading those career and business books for fun. A sign!

Where To Turn to Find Your Career Path

There are lots of options for where to find some support.

  1. If you have some clear-enough ideas but have trouble finding the words:
    Consider hiring an experienced résumé writer who can find the positive story in the so-called mess. The process itself can sometimes help you find clarity.
  2. If you are tired of feeling like the only one in a career transition:
    Look for a group of kindred spirits in the same boat because the transition journey can take a while and you might need someone to toss you a life jacket sometimes. (You can consider my small group community for Explorers.)
  3. If you feel like it’s time to fully regroup, rethink, or recover your work sanity:
    That’s a perfect time for a career coach.
  4. For a low-budget starting place:
    You can look for an online course by a career coach. (Check out my Career Clarity Course, “Simple Steps to Uncover the Best Use of You Now”.)
  5. If you want to take one small self-discovery step today:
    Ask a trusted friend what they think are your strengths and for any ideas they have for you. It might surprise you. They can often see what we can’t see in ourselves.

If You Want to Find a Career Coach

Here are some tips for choosing well:

  1. For introverts or highly sensitive people (HSP), consider finding an introvert and/or HSP specialist or program so they will get you easily and quickly. (Too often the typical advice is more geared for others.)
  2. If it’s easy to schedule a free initial call before hiring a career coach, that seems like a good sign too.
  3. In your initial call, make sure you feel heard and understood in general. The “click” means you’ll get faster and more useful results.
  4. The person you turn to doesn’t need to be local since these options can and usually happen by phone or video calls.

A Way To Find Career Clarity Now

I’ve created an online course to help walk you through the career clarity steps (and there’s a no-cost option too):
Check out my course, “Simple Steps to Uncover the Best Use of You Now”.

This video gives you a little hope and an intro to the course.

In the meantime, I’m sending you compassion for being in that confusing place. You don’t have to go it alone.

Val Nelson

Val Nelson

I’ve been a self-employed career/business/purpose coach since 2009. I help introverts and HSPs (like me) who want to make a difference — in a way that fits our practical needs too.
[More about Val, coaching, and courses.]

I appreciate feedback, good and bad. You can comment below or contact me privately.

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