Feeling stuck and lost? How to propel forward and find your career compass
Some guiding principles that has worked for me, throughout the 1st, 3rd…8th year of my career. Of which I believe might work for you as well, no matter which part of the career journey you are in.
I’m writing this in transition towards a big career move of mine, also a dream of almost five years in the making — a career opportunity in London (my dream city). As I revisited my writings– reflections, growth, ups and downs, trials and disappointments… I thought this might be a good moment to share some insights, personal beliefs and values that pulled me through.
I wanted to share this as I know that everyone, at some point in their career, might feel stuck, face a dilemma or experience a loss in career direction, including of which I have faced myself. It’s easy to witness the triumphs and landed opportunities of one, while shadowing the trials and effort gone into them, even if at the end of it, it might be sheer luck (And this, I’ll come to that, if ever we get to).
Here are some guiding principles I personally adhere to, when thinking about the next career move:
1. Your heart is your compass. Go where excites you
We can get the best advice from friends, colleagues and mentors. However, I’m a firm believer of instinct, gut and following the heart. Sometimes (not all the time but sometimes), it can hold such wisdom — the deepest desires of your heart and your utmost strength/potential that you may have yet to discover.
Following the heart may come naturally to some of you while prove challenging to some. If it helps, here’s a mini exercise that I have learnt. It’s not as easy as it seems to master, but if you give yourself the time and patience to practice it, it gets better and can be helpful.
Mini Exercise: Take a second to close your eyes, envision what you are doing that would make you happy (for a moment, leave the pay-check and realities behind), let your inner curiosity and desire of the heart lead you.
If that is a challenging exercise to embark on, perhaps try reading articles, visit the library or browse online courses, one’s imagination can be limited until you expose yourself to what’s there. Then let the wonders of the mind and desire of the heart lead you.
For me, one of the key traits I learn that I hold is ‘Curiosity’. I enjoy learning something new and I let my curiosity lead me to the next. Being inspired, celebrating creativity and coming up with transformative ideas led me to my first job. Then my curiosity to learn all things digital with where the world is heading led me to the next. And now, embarking on a whole new culture and foreign land brings me to another.
Sometimes we don’t know it until that random inkling comes within you at the most random moment. It can be while you are driving, listening to a podcast or eating… I remember an inkling I had was two years back sitting on a grass patch having my lunch when the desire to relocate came back and I decided to continue pursing it.
Don’t ignore it when the inkling comes. I’m sure at some point, it will.
2. Know the price you are willing to pay and stop comparing
We all know the rat race, the competition, the comparison game. It never ends, does it? Rich can get richer, the senior gets more senior. Stakes get higher as you go. Before you know it, you’re part of it and it’s hard to get out. Frankly, even I am guilty of it sometimes and I would try to pull myself out, re-centre, ground myself and ask what’s important to me.
The reality is — there is always a price to pay, for everything. We spoke about the ‘heart’ where we abandon the realities for a moment and dream. Now back to reality, there is always a price to pay. It all depends on what and how much you are willing to do so.
Taking some of the most generalising statements for example — the bank earns you huge bucks but it may not be the most exciting/fun place to be in given the red tapes and bureaucracy, the freelancer gets to travel around the world but may not get the most stable source of income, the celebrities get the fame and million bucks but may not necessarily get the privacy and freedom, the list goes on…you get the point.
The question isn’t “How much is the price”. It is “What’s the price you are willing to pay?”
3. Stick it out. Take breaks but don’t give up
It’s often easier to say this on hindsight — that the opportunity will come, just a matter of when. Truth is, the waiting and nights can be long, especially when you are the one in it and you can’t see the light at the end of the tunnel.
While it’s easy to be tough and say ‘stick it out, don’t give up, keep trying’, the human me knows it’s easier said than done. There will be times when we feel like giving up, there are many times even I silently surrender (to the universe and the higher power, realising it’s beyond my means). Therefore, I’d say– it’s okay to take breaks from time to time, but don’t lose sight of the goal.
My desire to move abroad was almost five years in the making and imagine how life would be like if I painfully waited for the right opportunity to arrive and miss out on the present. I never let it lose my sight and I try whenever I can, however I take breaks when I get tired too. And it’s perfectly okay.
4. The power of Trust
A point I lightly mentioned earlier whereby there are moments I surrender (to the universe). It’s a humbling experience to surrender and let the universe do the magic. It’s hard for someone like me who likes to think I’m in full control of my own life and hope to pave my own way/destiny. Yet time and time again, I’m proven that there are many things in life that are beyond our means of control (not in a depressing way). Life’s a balancing act as I like to believe, a tug-of-war — times where we try and work hard, and times we let go and stay open to what comes.
I’m a believer of putting in the hard work, then let go and trust. Trust the Universe. Trust the journey. Let the universe presents wonderful gifts of Life to you.
5. Don’t close doors before you open them
How many times have we heard “I wasn’t expecting that and it was the perfect opportunity”. It turned out the same for me too. While it’s important to stay focused on the goal and not get distracted, it’s also important to stay open to doors that opened for us. We never know where it may lead us to. And more often not, it doesn’t take too much of our time, a few minutes to reply to the recruiter, have a call or grab that coffee to find out more. Even if it’s not a suitable opportunity, we learn more about how we are positioned in the industry and the opportunities available to us.
You never know whether this door can open you up to.
Let me know what works for you. Any thoughts/suggestions are welcome.