"What is the right career path for me?" This is the question many people, especially the younger generations, have wrestled with a lot on their self-discovery journey. Even workers who have dedicated themselves to a career for a long time sometimes doubt their choices.
Some lucky ones know what they want to do since childhood and just strive toward it. For example, an acquaintance of mine is a teacher, and she knew as a child that she would be teaching, just wondering which subject she would get into.
As I'm working my dream job, many may assume I am one of those lucky ones, but it's not my case. Only when I was 25 did it vaguely dawn on me that I liked teaching. Still, I couldn't tell exactly what future job suited me most.
So here are two models that helped me better understand my future career path, and I hope they can be helpful to you, too.
A leaner version of IKIGAI
IKIGAI, a concept that means your "reason for being," is already widely known among many young Vietnamese. IKIGAI is the convergence of four components and at the intersection where these factors meet, you can find your dream career.
Here, I will introduce a leaner version of IKIGIA with only three components.
The first element is “what you want to do,” which integrates the two elements of "what you love" and "what you're good at." I combine these two factors into one because, usually, we tend to love what we are good at. When we get supported and complimented for our excellent work, we are motivated to do better, and enjoy what we do.
For those who still have no idea what they want to do, I believe that everyone is endowed with one, or even some talents that have stood out since their childhood. There must be something you could do easily whereas other kids couldn't or it took them a long time to do. That talent may not clearly signify a particular future job, but it's been there and you don't need to analyze too much in search of it.
A friend of mine was naturally good at bringing people together as a child. In a group of friends, he would always ask everyone to hang out. During arguments, he acted as a peacemaker, helping forge the bond of our friendship. Now, working as a life coach, he realizes he was meant for this job.
The second component is "what the world needs," which means whether what you want to do serves society. Many people may be very good at and find joy in scamming or manipulating others but these capacities are unethical and harmful. A job is only meaningful if it has a positive impact greater than yourself.
The third component is "what you can be paid for." To pursue your passion in the long run, you need an income to make a decent living and generate more motivation to continue this journey.
When first working on my blog, The Present Writer, I knew this was what I loved doing. Luckily, many readers have found my sharings helpful and were surprised that such an insightful and informative blog is free. Frankly, maintaining a free blog is quite tough for me, especially during the very first days of The Present Writer. At that time, I was still a Ph.D. student with my newborn and struggled financially.
Up to now, my blog has remained free, but I have different sources of income to help keep The Present Writer going in the long run, thus contributing more to the community.
The second and third components may be easier to identify. For example, if you want to know if a job is in high demand, you can search the hiring sites to study recent career trends. To understand whether a career can generate good income, ask those working in that field on social networks or just google it (unless you are aiming for an emerging job).
For me, the first factor, what I want to do, is the most difficult to identify. The below model in the next section will aid in finding this.
This model is introduced in the book True North by Bill George. According to him, your "sweet spot" consists of two factors: Motivations and Capabilities.
There are two main types of motivations. The first is extrinsic motivations, generated by compliments, salary, titles, and social status. Some may deem wealth and social status superficial and shallow, but they are very important. It's easier to continue a job with others' acknowledgment and support.
The second type is intrinsic motivation, the driving force that encourages your actions and is generated when you accomplish something you've striven for. My intrinsic motivation is to help the young staff of The Present Writer team develop professionally and personally.
Many people may argue the fact that I'm aiming toward external values is more extrinsic rather than intrinsic motivation. In fact, when I can lend somebody a helping hand, I feel delighted within myself. So even though I receive no appreciation or recognition, I will still do it.
Regarding capabilities, they are separated into two categories: Strengths and weaknesses. Strengths are things that we can do better than others. We have tried weaknesses many times but have not produced good results.
I want to emphasize that your weaknesses should be drawn from your past experiences, not from others' judgment and assumptions. However, sometimes you may misjudge a quality or skill as your weakness while it isn't, but just average and can be improved through practice.
For example, when I was in school, I was so into Literature that I believed I was terrible at math. But then I realized I was alright. I could not win a gold or silver medal in a math competition or become an engineer, but I'm proficient enough to use math in my work, and later I even became a data analyst. My only problem with this job is that it only showcases a few of my strengths.
To better understand these factors, refer to my YouTube video about this topic or read the book True North by Bill George.
Finding the answers for who I am and what career is right for me is a long journey of digging deep inside yourself. I also have to ask myself these questions regularly to see if I'm on the right track.
I hope these two models will help you determine which career is right for you. And most importantly, I hope you realize that the better you understand yourself, the clearer your next path will reveal itself.
Translated by Bich Tram