Don’t Apologize For Not Knowing What You Want

I was talking to a friend the other day and they made the comment that they really enjoy reading my blog (thank you) but sometimes they don’t know if it applies to them because they really have no idea what they want to do when they grow up.

Well – welcome to the party – we’ve all been here for quite some time, it’s about time you showed up!

If it comes across as thought I know exactly what I want in every aspect of my life at all times then man, have I got you fooled!  It was by a couple of wrong turns that I ended up starting my own business; but even then I didn’t really know.  Not until a series of seemingly tragic events occurred simultaneously that I really found my passion and commitment.  And I was in my 40s!

I say seemingly because at the time they were horrific; now I can look back and see that they were perfectly planned bumps in the road.  Perspective is awesome.  At the time I did the whole woe-is-me the sky is falling reaction; now I am so very grateful that these events transpired.  Although I do believe the universe could have been a little more gentle – but apparently I need a really good kick in the butt to figure things out.

There have been a few times in my life that I thought I had it all figured out: once in my twenties and again in my thirties.  Now when I say all figured out I mean the whole ball of wax: professional and personal.  As I entered my 40s I realized I’m an idiot.  The things I had all figured out were all wrong for me.  So I’ve stopped trying to plan it all out.

I am fortunate to know what I want to do professionally and I love it; I wake up every day excited to begin, see what will come of the day today, what opportunities are out there for me to go after, what goals I can accomplish and most importantly – how many people I can help that day.

It is fantastic and I wouldn’t have it any other way.  I get to blaze my own trails, create my wildest dreams!  I’m in the driver seat and I even get to pick out the make and model of the car.

Personally – well, that’s a whole other story.  Let’s just say I’ve finally learned to just go with the flow and enjoy the ride.  We’re just not going to go there….

I talk to people every day, literally, that really don’t know where they want to go next.  So often they approach it in almost an apologetic way – there is no need!  We don’t always have to have everything plotted out and planned – remember the wise saying, “Man plans, God laughs.”

I know it adds an element of frustration when job searching if you can’t detail exactly where you want to go next; but before you completely stress yourself out take a breath.  Start with figuring out where you are right now.  That is a great place to start.

Often when someone is unhappy in the current job they look to completely jump ship but it isn’t going to do you any good to jump overboard if there isn’t a lifeboat waiting for you.  You don’t have to climb from one ship to another, sometimes you just need to get in a little rowboat and start rowing to see where you end up.

Right here, right now what makes you happy – and why?  Maybe you are not completely happy with your current position, but is there anything about it that you enjoy?  Maybe it is the industry, some of the tasks that you perform, the clients you work with or even the people you work with – there is probably something that you enjoy.  Just focus on that and start rowing.

Look for positions that match up with the things that make you happy right now.

It is great if you can identify things that you don’t enjoy or that don’t make you happy.  Those are things that you can look to avoid in the next position.

Break it down little by little and see where it takes you.  By focusing on the positive it gives you a much more open perspective going forward.

We over-think and that becomes a huge frustration.  Think of it this way – if you meet a great person you don’t have to decide on the first date if you are going to marry them for crying out loud.  Not everything has to be plotted out – just go with it.  Do they make you laugh and you find yourself smiling when you look at them?  Great, now just start with going out with them again and see where it goes – enjoy the time together without picking out a wedding dress.

If you can identify every single thing that you want in your next position that’s great – but it isn’t always the case.  Don’t stress over it, just start small.

When you move on to the next position it may be fantastic or it may stink.  It is a risk you take, but you will be one step closer to finding more of what makes you happy.  There will be a lesson in there for you to learn.  Maybe you learn a new skill, take on additional responsibility or if nothing else can definitely add things to your “never again” list.

One last note: never let anyone make you feel bad for not knowing what you want to do next.  First of all it is your life not theirs so it is real easy for someone else to judge you; but they don’t live in your shoes so to hell with their opinions.  We all have insecurities, doubts, fears and blocks – we all just don’t verbalize them.  Good for you that you were brave enough to actually admit it!

Okay, I lied, this is the last note: your job does not define you.  So if you find yourself working in a position that someone else might define as mediocre or meaningless so what.  See above paragraph.  As much as I love what I do it is not all of who I am.  I am also a mother, daughter, friend – these are the roles that I love even more and bring me even more joy.

When I got divorced several years ago my son was very young, but he was old enough to understand we were going from one income to two and the possible ramifications of that.  When he asked about what I was going to do I told him it didn’t matter as long as I could provide for him and be there for him I didn’t care what my next job would be – the priority wasn’t the job it was my son.

You’re job may suck, but if you are able to provide for your family, enjoy time with your friends and treat yourself right then I would say you are already ahead of the game.


Lisa K. McDonald, CPRW

Career Coach-Strategist

Certified Professional Resume Writer

Career Polish, Inc.

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