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Professional Confessional

A blog providing tips and resources for life after college

Who ARE you?

Carolyn CouchOPCD Expert Contributor – Carolyn Couch, Associate Director of Career Education and Counseling

More and more frequently, I notice just how easily we can answer the question, “What should I do with my life?”.  We can simply reflect on what we’ve already done and who we already are.  The clues are everywhere.

What stories do our families proudly repeat about our younger selves, at holiday dinners?  What traits did they notice early on?

Henry has had an incredibly successful food sales career, receiving promotions up to VP level.  His mother loves to share her surprise at receiving a call from a neighbor one day.  Did her five-year-old son have permission to peddle her garden harvest door to door?  His sister LuAnn, now a dynamic trainer and Methodist Minister of Education, loves to tell about her afternoons playing teacher to her younger brother.  Often our childhood games can predict our career direction.

What traits do we share with family members?  What is their work history?

Like the acorn that inevitably grows to be an oak tree, our DNA can be powerful.   Is anyone surprised that Peyton and Eli Manning are football greats like dad, Archie?  Were we shocked that actress Bryce Howard turned out to be Ron’s daughter?  Not really.  We may or may not allow our genes to dictate our career destiny, but examining our natural characteristics could help us create the future we want.

What are our likes and dislikes?  Things we do so naturally we don’t even notice?

Working against the grain of who we are will eventually stress us out and burn us out.  If you’ve always hated conflict, then performing a job based on adversarial relationships will get under your skin.  That was Hannah’s situation.  She chose to get a law degree so that she could empower others.  Her daily reality?  Protecting her employer from employee lawsuits.  After years of working against the people she most wanted to help, she left the profession and is now looking for ways she can bring confidence and strength to others.

In the case of a personal acquaintance, Kathryn’s friends consistently comment on her powers of persuasion:  “She could sell snowballs to eskimos.”  I’ll bet she’s not even aware of it and that it definitely doesn’t feel like “work”.

Sure, career assessments like the MBTI and Strong have their place.  They can give you a jump start on the self-reflection process.  So can Kate Brooks’ Wandering Map, where you create a visual representation of all the significant and interesting things you’ve done in your life.  Noting the common themes, skills, and circumstances there will open your eyes to your best self.  Merely tracking your likes and dislikes on a pad for a week can reveal the same.  You’re the expert on yourself.  So do a little self-sleuthing.  Let it lead you to what’s next.

While browsing a small shop on Black Friday, I noticed the owner’s eight year old son behind the counter, taking in Mom’s every move.  As she checked out customers, he questioned her about the swipe machine, the register, the wrapping process, etc.  “I could help you after school and on Saturdays”, he offered.  Within minutes, he was processing cards and making change.  As I turned to leave, I heard him remark, “I could do this on my own.”  And you probably will one day.

Category: Professional Development

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