Exploring is not Deciding Part I: The Nature of Future Endeavors

This is the first post in my three-part series “Exploring is not Deciding” (read Part II and Part III). 

Have you ever hit a wall trying to figure out your career or path in self-employment? You have an idea or two about what you’d like to do, but you’re just not sure, then you get stuck there. Wondering what it would be like to work as a radiology tech, landscape designer, assist on a photo shoot or join a mission-based program for a non-profit? You don’t have the clarity to commit to classes, but something inside you says this could be it! What to do? Explore.

Career exploration, a phase of life and career transition, is not always an obvious or well-known leg of career or business change, although it’s at the heart of entrepreneurism. This can create problems for any of us still believing if we’ve thought up the right path for ourselves, it will be totally clear from the start. There will be no doubt, confusion or concern to resolve. We expect things to feel fairly certain if it’s the right direction, right away, and then we’ll just go for it. In fact, folks often feel they have a personal problem, or lack of self-confidence if they’re not able to take the so-called “leap of faith” into another world. A work world where things make sense to you and your affection for the job you do is natural.

In reality it’s normal to need time, information and hands on experience to trust that your idea is the right one. Even if you have worked with a career counselor or other resource and completed a career assessment of your interests, values, skills and strengths, personality and thought about your work setting preferences, typically there are issues and concerns as you consider possible career matches. Along with the excitement over your emerging clarity and felt direction, expect a few burning questions. In fact they are part of what you navigate by at this stage. Your questions and concerns, along side the essential knowledge you have learned about yourself during the career assessment. Your fears and concerns about your future come from your own individual history and experience. These issues once named and researched open the door to better personal understanding and certainty about the meaning of your life and work life.

But you may still be hesitating to check out a new career or business idea because it feels you are somehow making a commitment, a decision, and you are truly not ready to do that. Perhaps it’s that exploring is an investment of time, sometimes money, and the road map is unclear or seems arbitrary, too loose. The uncertainty of it all is hard to tolerate and exploring life and career options becomes emotionally overwhelming, usually, at some point. A lot of people give up on their ideas when this starts to happen. The current job, even though it’s making you exceedingly unhappy, is at least known. So unless your work stress level is high, and it very well could be; think you might just want to take a number and chill? That is if you can tolerate your job for an extended period. Because even if everything goes well, your job search to improve things could take months, let’s talk. It’s time to get you talking about all this stuff and write some of it down.

To begin exploring your ideas, narrow down the possibilities to two or three most likely candidates, again we’re doing our best to curtail panic and anxiety. Anybody lying awake at night, tossing and turning? Get out your pencil, pen or computer instead. Identify the top five concerns about your possible best work options. Sincere and earnestly asked questions lead to answers if you follow up on them. And then continue to follow up.

Next we’re going to work on getting both the information and the experience you need to begin envisioning your longer-term picture. In the mean time, the focus is short term; career change is all about managing the short-term picture as well as the long term. In other words, we can only build from where we are right now. Career development does not take place somewhere else, outside of your actual life.


Originally posted on Career Transition: The Inside Job