At 14, I stepped on a 400m track for the first time to join my school’s inaugural track and field team. Little did I know that four years later, track would open a door for me to attend one of the most prestigious higher education institutions in the country, Yale University. At graduation, I felt that once again, I was down in the starting blocks alongside my peers, ready to start the race of life. The problem is that I didn’t feel prepared to figure out what I was supposed to do. How could I have attended such a renowned university and not feel prepared to select a career?
The Path Disappears
Finding your path to meaningful work is a challenge to say the least. Until the end of college, the path is fairly straightforward… complete one year of education and move on to the next. There are a few forks in the road such as which school to attend and what major to select, but by in large the path is clear. Graduation marks a significant departure from that predictable course that guided us from childhood to adulthood. Suddenly, the fog rolls in and that straight and predictable path gets hidden.
Follow Your Passion
Somehow we are supposed to magically figure out what we’re supposed to do. Self-help gurus proclaim that we should simply follow our passions. I followed that advice after college and tried to identify career opportunities at the intersection of my interests. At the time, I had just returned from spending a year doing community service in Costa Rica. I knew I loved Latin America, travel and Spanish. I ended up finding a job as the Director of Latin American Sales for a machinery manufacturer. I knew nothing about the industry, but it did allow me to stay connected to Latin America, travel (on the company’s dime) and speak Spanish.
A Lack of Purpose
For the first several years, I loved my job in international business. I traveled to Latin America every month and made friends around the world. Eventually, the adventure wore off and I realized the sole purpose of my work was to make money for the company. That wasn’t enough for me. I wanted my work to have meaning. I wanted my work to be purposeful.
For the next seven years, I engaged on a quest to discover my purpose. My search took me to the deserts of Pakistan, the forests of Honduras and the plains of Africa. I traveled to six out of seven continents. Eventually, I found my way, but I now realize there were clues about my purpose sitting right in front of me, in my story and my design.
Mapping Your Story
Your story is a collection of moments from birth to death. Many of those moments disappear with the sands of time, but a few have a way of imprinting themselves on you permanently. By listing your heritage, highlights, heroes and hindrances you can uncover those key moments in your story and look for themes that point to your future.
Discovering Your Design
Your design is the combination of your personality, likes, abilities and values. Like fingerprints, no one else in the world has your same design. Society preaches that you can be anything you want to be, but unfortunately that lie has caused many to pursue careers in areas that are not a good fit with their design. Self-reflection can uncover the elements of your design, but scientifically validated assessments are probably the quickest way to do so.
Story+Design = Path
By connecting the clues in our story and our design, we uncover our path to meaningful work. BraveWave recently launched Story+Design to help people who are lost in their careers or unfulfilled at work to find their path to meaningful work. We offer free resources, one-on-one coaching and group workshops to everyone from new college graduates to senior executives. Please contact us for more information on how to uncover your path to meaningful work.
Photo Credit: gags999 (cropped)