Age doesn’t always bring wisdom.
Nearly one in three (30%) Baby Boomers say they have not yet defined their career path or goals. Meanwhile, Millennials and Gen Xers are all over it with just 14% and 15%, respectively, saying they haven’t defined their career path or goals, according to a survey of 1,000 adults, which was presented by Capital One at a panel discussion Thursday.
That may be because Boomers have a lot of “actual experience in the workforce and know that it’s a journey with many twists and turns, not a straight line,” says HR expert and trainer Robyn Tingley. While younger workers “may think they have it figured out – or a clear career path identified that they want to pursue – it might not be very robust, or they could in fact change their minds as life unfolds.”
Whatever the reasons, it’s a big mistake not to define your career path and goals, experts say. “Getting clear on what you are driven to achieve is key to being able to realize your most bold professional and personal goals,” says Tingley.
But defining your career path and goals isn’t always easy. “You don’t wake up one day and say ‘Ah ha! I know that this is where I’m going to focus all of my energy’. It’s just not that simple. Most people have to work at finding their purpose,” says Tingley.
Step one: “Be honest with yourself. If you had no fear of repercussions, or the struggle, what would you be doing,” says career coach Carlota Zimmerman. “If you genuinely can’t answer that, write out what it is you dislike about your current situation. Sometimes knowing what you don’t want to do is just as important as knowing what you want.”
Tingley adds that you should compare your career dreams to your reality, such as what you’re good at. Is there overlap between the two? And, she adds, share both your dreams and skills with trusted family members and friends. “Ask them to help you identify jobs that support your interests,” she says. “These people know you best and can help you brainstorm about jobs that exist and relationships you’ll need to develop.”
It’s also important to identify people who are currently living out your dream career — or identify someone you know who may know that person — says executive coach Marc Dorio. If possible, get in touch with person to find out how they got to where they are.
And most importantly, act: “You need to try a few things and gain hands-on experience to know if you are on the right track,” says Tingley. “Don’t get caught up in finding the perfect job that makes you happy every day. It doesn’t exist. Life is full of challenges and you’ll need to improvise.”