Lately it feels like 27 to 30 is a hotbed of soul searching. So many people I know are deeply questioning their jobs, callings and passions. Friends who loved their jobs at 24 are wondering why they're still in them at 28; slightly panicked that so many years have transpired in what feels like the blink of an eye.
I recently had coffee with an old friend who switched jobs this month. Last summer, we'd talked a lot about her passion - what was it? How could she find it? Not only did she switch jobs this month, but also entire industries. How was she so brave? How did she figure out what step to take?
It seems the hardest part is not finding jobs that are available, but knowing which ones will make you happy. And, the nagging question: is the grass really greener? After all, you have flexibility or comfort or a steady paycheck or, at the very least, know how to do your job well - should you just stay put?
As someone who spent most of 2014 and part of 2015 digging deep into my soul, wondering what my calling could possibly be, here are a few questions that helped me figure out where to begin:
1. What is your currency of value?
A personal currency of value is something that is important, valuable and worth pursuing in your opinion. Here are a few examples of currencies of value:
- To have financial stability
- To be helpful
- To serve others
- To make people laugh or happier
- To be considered an authority on a topic
- To help people get healthier
- To be in charge
- To protect
- To heal people
For a long time, I felt kind of embarrassed that I would volunteer with any charity. I felt some shame because it didn't seem like any one particular charity was speaking to me - I sort of just bee bopped around, taking board positions at CHOA to leading groups with YoBoulevard and all sorts of spots in between. Why didn't I have a cause I cared about more? One I wanted to fight for and go all in on? Was I being shallow and noncommittal?
When I determined my currencies of value, I realized I love to lead projects that I think are helping people. So my currencies of value are to be in charge and to help others.
Take a minute - think about what lights you up. When do you feel so excited to work on something because you care so much about the end result? If you think about people who are thriving in their jobs, they likely know and are fulfilling their currencies of value.
It's important to note a few things here:
- If someone doesn't share your currency of value, it's almost impossible to get them to value it. These are inherent by the time we are adults - either by nature or nurture, they're things we can't help but care about.
- It's important not to apologize for your currencies of value. A friend of mine told me she felt guilty that she values money. But, she often grew up without much money and wants to make sure that someday her kids don't feel that way. Not acknowledging what we value won't make it go away - instead it will be that nagging ex-boyfriend that texts you on Saturday nights. I'm still here!
- If you feel like you value something that isn't healthy for you, don't ignore it, but instead acknowledge it and figure out why. Was there something missing in your childhood? Or something you feel like you lack? Working through it to the root might help you realize that you're deriving worth from being perceived as smart, for example. So, why do you want to feel smart? Did someone make you feel like you weren't? Challenging our currencies of value opens up discussion into our worth, needs and emptiness.
- I want to make sure I note that these aren't where our value comes from. Our value is in Christ alone and no matter how many projects I lead, it will never give me more value. It will feel bottomless and empty if I try to find my value in it. Fulfilling these values doesn't make us more valuable. They are simply the things we feel called to invest our time in.
2. What will be your trade offs?
No job is perfect. Every job requires some trade offs. For example, you might be able to avoid having a desk job, but that means you work more evenings. You might trade a bigger paycheck for more flexibility. Or exhilarating projects for more travel.
Life is full of trade offs and our jobs are no different. A while back, I took a job that made me realize I really need flexibility. To have autonomy over my schedule is super duper important to me. I felt trapped and anxious in a role that required me to sit at my desk until 5 p.m. I do my best work early in the day and often need some changes of scenery to keep my creative juices flowing. While my projects felt cooler in that role, it didn't really matter. The trade off wasn't worth it.
3. Who do you want to serve?
In every job, you're serving someone. Whether it's a CEO and a big company or clients or underprivileged boys or anywhere in between. Even if you're your own boss, you know your client base and target demographic. Who do you care about? Who lights you up?
4. What do you want to retire from?
Close your eyes (after you read this :)). Think about yourself 30 or 40 years from now, preparing for retirement. What do you want to retire from? What do you want this environment to look like? Who do you want to be saying farewell, noting what a loss to the industry it is to see you go?
The next job you take might not be in that field, because we don't always get to have our forever jobs in our 20s. But, it should be a step in that direction. If you think you might want to be a doctor, but you're currently at a desk, take a job in a hospital. If you think you might want to be a graphic designer, but don't have the certification, try taking a free General Assembly or Coursera course.
I constantly have to remind myself: no one is going to make this happen for me. If I want to run a summer camp and coach women and girls, I have to take steps to make it happen.
If you'd like to talk through this topic more or bounce these questions around together, I'd love to work with you!