I asked people at the Association for Experiential Education conference a question: how do you find meaningful work – make a thoughtful plan or let it magically unfold?
(Full disclosure: as an incentive to answer the question, I held a drawing and gave away prizes. If you keep reading, you will see that I am giving away more prizes at the end of this post.)
Nearly everyone answered my question with a question: how do I find meaningful work or how should I find it?
How do you prefer to find it? I replied.
Seventy percent of the people I surveyed said that they would prefer to let their careers magically unfold. Seventy percent!
The message that we get from society is that successful people have a plan. Successful people know from a very young age what they want to do when they grow up. They use the knowledge of their perfect-match dream career to motivate them to get good grades in high school, use those grades to get into a good college, and land a satisfying, high-paying job as soon as they graduate. I think society is perpetuating a myth AND I think it is freaking people out.
I recently interviewed more than a dozen successful professionals in the fields of experiential education and conservation science to learn about their career paths. Not a single one of the people I interviewed said that they were aiming for this career from a young age. Several of them mentioned an aha moment when they knew what they wanted to do, but that moment was typically sometime in their twenties and more of a vague idea than a concrete plan. A few of the people I talked to had several different aha moments on several different career paths.
So, should you make a thoughtful plan or let your career magically unfold? You should probably do a little bit of both. Regardless of your path, you should take the time to study the profession once you have your “a ha” moment and you know what you want to do with your life. You owe it to yourself to do some research for two reasons. First, you’ll know what you are getting yourself into. Second, you will gain a leg up on the competition for your dream job because you’ll probably know more than they do. Do your homework by asking: who is working in jobs that appeal to you and how did they get there? What do they like and dislike about their job? Could you follow their path to a similar career? My previous post has suggestions for personal professional development (specifically see ideas see #4, #5, and #6).
What if you haven’t had your aha moment yet? I have a few ideas for that too. I developed a career mapping workshop that facilitates the career brainstorming, visioning, and professional research process. You can see an overview video here and the handout here. You will also be able to sign up for the online version of the workshop in December at www.educatewild.com.
Now I ask you, engaged reader, how do you find meaningful work – make a thoughtful plan or let it magically unfold? And when has that worked or not worked for you?
As a thank you for commenting on this post, I will send an Educate Wild! Outdoor Educator’s Tiny Bag of Tricks to one randomly selected person who comments on this post by noon PST on Wednesday, November 9, 2016 (Micah, this is your chance!).
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