We’ve all heard the old adage: Choose a career you love and you’ll never have to work a day in your life. For some of us, this choice is extremely easy, while for others, it’s strangely challenging. My philosophy is to work smart and play smart. An optimal career choice will blur the line between work and play so that you never feel like you’re working because you’ll be doing something you feel passionate and confident about and, ultimately, you’ll enjoy doing it each and every day.
Here are four tips that have guided me when making these ever-important decisions:
1. Choose a career path that inspires you. If you read about a company that builds robotic technology to assist children with disabilities and say to yourself, “That is a brilliant idea, I’d love to work in that field,” you’ve triggered an element of personal inspiration. Before selecting a career path, locate the triggers in yourself to determine what excites and motivates you. Maybe you have a love affair with food and wish to become a chef. Maybe that culinary passion would serve you better in the role of a food critic. Either way, determining a career path that inspires you will ultimately ensure that you’ll pop out of bed earlier than normal each morning to tackle your day and all that may come with it.
2. Pick a career that challenges you. Whether you realize it or not, every human being enjoys challenge. Some of us prefer the challenge of the chase or the win, while others tend to do better when challenged academically or even socially. To repeat a time-honored question, are you in it for the work, or are you in it for the money? Too often, the response is the latter as we load up with financial responsibilities in the way of family, mortgages and necessary material goods. Because of these obstacles, we occasionally get stuck in a rut where we work at the same job for years on end and entrench ourselves with our familiar coworkers, steady paychecks, supportive benefits and minimal daily upsets. However, the happiest people are those who avoid the rut in the first place and instead make themselves a little uncomfortable. For example, if you dream of a career as a screenwriter with the glitz and glamour of Hollywood, but don’t have screenwriting skills or Hollywood connections, don’t scrap your dream! Pursue your desires with laser precision. Take screenwriting classes, offer to intern with a production company or even freelance for Hollywood-focused magazines in order to gain contacts, develop ideas and build your network. The end goal is to chase a career that will challenge you in a rewarding way in mind, body and spirit.
3. Educate yourself. Each career field has its own unique set of rules. Anyone outside the profession wouldn’t know most of them, as only those working in a given field are privy to the finer details. For example, being a teacher may seem like a dream to many: shorter days, summers off – sounds heavenly, right? What many of us are blind to are the behind-the-scenes responsibilities teachers have which include detailed knowledge of education laws and regulations, participation in Individualized Education Plan meetings, the hours of required professional development and the intricate and demanding work (not to mention out-of-pocket, unreimbursed cash) that goes into planning and preparing a nine-month curriculum which follows state education guidelines and prepares students for all academic testing. And that’s not even touching all of the expectations and demands individual parents place on teachers. Suddenly, the job doesn’t appear as “easy-breezy” as one may imagine. Fully understanding and embracing the responsibilities of a career choice is part of a personal education process, and the easiest way to gain these insider tips is to shadow someone in the field of interest – or even invite them to lunch to conduct a personal interview. Others who have gone before us will possess detailed information and personal stories that will either encourage us to move forward or, possibly, reconsider our trajectory.
4. Envision yourself in a career and anticipate how it will impact your life. As someone with a family, I’ve learned that all jobs impact those in our lives – be it significant others, family members or friends. Your available time is dependent on your career choice, so keeping your lifestyle in mind is mission critical. For example, if you enjoy a morning workout and cup of coffee with your spouse (things I do before I even review emails each day), a career that pulls you into the hospital to do open-heart surgery at 4:30 a.m. may not mesh with your desired lifestyle. Should you be a sports fanatic with season tickets who wants to arrive at the ball park by 4 p.m. every Tuesday and Friday, a standard 9-5 job probably won’t suit you. If you have children with special needs who require your care, a career that allows schedule flexibility is very important. Today’s workforce desires greater life balance. People want to “work smart and play smart.” Understanding how a specific career will impact your time and focus will help you architect your perfect life blueprint. Balancing a dedication to a career path that inspires and challenges you at the same time it extends the pleasure you derive from doing that job into your personal life is the best of both worlds.
These four tips have helped guide and shape my professional – and personal – life and have afforded me a balance that brings true enjoyment in all areas of life. What are some of your own personal go-to pieces of advice, tips or even deal-breakers in choosing a career direction?
– Jonathan Cronstedt is the CEO of Empower Network, LLC. Empower Network is a leading affiliate marketing and direct sales company that’s helping tens of thousands enjoy the “Empowered Lifestyle.” Jonathan enjoys travel, spending time with his wife and red wine.