by Devan Phillips

Over the years, I have worked at a variety of jobs. Quite frankly, I became a bit of a job-hopper. I was never really satisfied with where I was or what I was doing. I struggled with answering the question “What do I want to be when I grow up?” The good news is, I’ve finally gained some clarity and have some real direction. Here’s how I did it: I realized that if I was going to learn about different industries, I needed to ask better questions. LinkedIn became my best friend. I joined different groups and posted questions. I’d ask things like “What is your favorite thing about being in ___ industry?” It’s amazing the number of people who responded. I’ve even made some great connections along the way!

One evening I was chatting with “John,” one of my newfound LinkedIn friends, and he asked me several different questions about what truly interested me.  I kept finding myself giving him the same canned answers that I had given in so many interviews: “Well, I enjoy paying attention to detail and solving problems…” I was regurgitating the information on my resume, when in reality, I did not have a passion for any of those things!

Fortunately, John called me out on this, “I hear you saying these things, but there is no excitement in your voice. What do you really enjoy doing? Forget about what you already have experience with.”

Then it hit me. I needed to put my resume to the side and pretend like I was a kid again with someone asking me what I wanted to be when I grew up. Thinking about my past experiences was hindering me from really figuring out what I wanted to do because I kept limiting myself to the words on my resume. I’d think “Well, I have skills in this…that would probably help me get a job in that…” All that did was put me back on track to a job I wanted nothing to do with. I realized I could worry about the skills on my resume later. Every job will have something that’s transferable.

During the past several years, I’ve been trying to figure out what I am interested in, and also what kind of lifestyle I want. I mean, I’d love to spend my days traveling the world, but realistically speaking, I would get homesick. When I recognized that I enjoy moving around rather than sitting still all day, I gained clarity that perhaps a desk job just isn’t for me. I also realized that when picking a career path, it’s important to look at finances, typical hours, environment, etc. and recognize what my priorities are. Self-reflecting questions such as, “Is a flexible work schedule what I need to be happy?” “Do I want to make lots of money?” “Do I want to work at a desk or travel to various locations?” helped me to see what’s important.

Answering the question of “What do I want to be when I grow up?” is not an easy task. It’s not something that can be answered overnight, and there’s nothing wrong with changing your mind along the way. Spend time asking yourself questions, thinking about what you enjoy, talking to others about meaningful work, seeking out mentors to guide you, reflecting on priorities, and soon enough, you will be well on your way to creating your own path.