Listening to podcast, I started thinking more about a common question we ask young people. When we’re graduating high school, people start asking “What are you going to do now?”. This is normally followed by the advice of “do what makes you happy”.
This advice is why I studied fashion design in college. Like a WHOLE DEGREE in fashion design all because drawing clothes and coming up with fashion pieces made me happy. I assumed that this would be my life after graduation: I’d sit with a sketchbook, come up with awesome fashion pieces that people would love, then other people that were not me would make them. Not once did I think about making money, paying back my student loans, or the day to day tasks of a fashion designer.
Although, I had a great experience in college and did get a lot of valuable knowledge from the courses that made up my degree, the fact is I didn’t want the life of a true fashion designer. Why?
Because fashion designers don’t sit with a sketchbook drawing pretty clothes that someone else has to make. A fashion designer has to do a lot of technical stuff that I ALWAYS hated to do in school–especially as an assistant.
It’s Not “What Makes You Happy”, It’s Choosing Your Life
We need to change how we look at our futures. Instead of asking what makes you happy, think about the life you want to live.
The standard work week in America is 40 hours and some salary people put in much more. We also spend about 1/3 of our days asleep. This means what we do to make money will take up the majority of our day!
It’s important that your career choice makes you happy AND supports your lifestyle.
Ask yourself what kind of life do you want?
Think about what you really want to do with your life. Do you want to golf every weekend? Do you want to have a family? Is it your goal to travel around the world?
It’s tempting for us to automatically answer this question unrealistically with something like “I want to make a lot of money, I only want to work 10-3 four days a week, and I want to fly private everywhere”.
But this question actually requires critical thinking about your goals in life.
For instance, I want to always date my spouse, spend time playing with my dog and going on walks, eventually stay home with my kids. I want to travel internationally once a year, or every other, and have at least one domestic trip a year. Essentially, I want a quiet, comfortable life filled with love instead of worry.
Even though your priorities in life may change with life events and age, it’s important to know where your values lie. Write down everything you want to see in your life. Consider all of your priorities and what makes you happy (You may even want to create a vision board). Then think about the career you’re looking at to see if it will provide the means and the time to live the life you dreamed up.
Consider how you’re going to earn your money.
Now that you know the life you want to have, you need to decide how to finance that life. Even if you’re going to inherit a gob load of money from a relative when they die, you will need to work before they do. And you can’t bank on winning the lottery. The odds aren’t in your favor.
The best way I’ve found to do this is to consider what you are naturally drawn to. Most of us have things from elementary school forward that we’re ALWAYS doing. Like researching interesting facts, starting a lemonade stand, trying science experiments, etc. Figuring out what you naturally do, helps you find an industry, or major of study, to focus on. And if you need help, check out my ultimate guide to help you with your career path.
Once you have a general direction, start researching possible ways to go down this career path. Interview people in a specific position that you’re interested in. Ask to job shadow or intern for a day at a certain company you like. Consider what your debt to income ratio will be if you need any degrees or certifications.
The goal is to educate yourself, so you know if this career will be able to finance your lifestyle. Unlike an assistant fashion designer earning $32,000 in New York City with a minimum $950/mth student loan payment living in her own apartment.
Then decide the best path to take.
After you decide what makes you happy and what pays the bills, it’s time to choose your career trajectory. If you’re in high school, or recently graduated, check out my helpful options for after graduation. But you don’t have to be new to the job market to choose your life.
When I no longer decided to be a fashion designer, I went through a soul searching time of my life. Once I could answer the first two questions, then I started to see a vision for my life. Remember you can always change your career direction no matter how far down the path you’ve traveled.
Here are 3 of my top tips to advancing your career:
- Find groups and networks to attend in your area
- Read to be knowledgeable in your field of expertise
- Constantly be thinking about how you can improve your skills
There will always be days where your job won’t be fun or days where you want to do nothing but stay in bed. However, when you choose the life you want and it’s what makes you happy, there’s a greater chance you’ll love your life through all the ups and downs.
The most important thing is for your life to be yours. No one can make decisions for you nor can you blame anyone else for your choices. Choose your life wisely!