For many ambitious individuals, there comes a time when we aren’t sure what our next step in life should be. This is commonly referred to as a quarter-life crisis and is a time when we experience doubt and confusions about our next steps.
Maybe you’re wondering if graduate school is the right next step for you, or maybe you’re trying to decide if you should stay in your current position or transition to a new industry. Or perhaps you feel like you’re being called for something more. These gut feelings are your intuition kicking in and shouldn’t be ignored.
When you come to this crossroads, it can be tricky to navigate. The older we get, the more factors are involved in deciding on our life trajectories. The good news is, there is no right or wrong answer, only what you feel is best for you.
Below I have outlined five critical questions for you to dig into when you are trying to figure out your next steps:
1. What makes you feel invincible?
Think back to a time when you felt like you felt absolutely sure of yourself. What was is that you felt confident doing, teaching or learning? Confidence is a powerful indicator that we are on the right path.
2. What skills do you currently have and which skills would you like to have?
We all have combinations of skills, talents, and experiences that make us unique. If you aren’t already, begin a list of the skills you have (no matter how irrelevant they might seem). Having a list of these skills will help you identify strengths and weaknesses you possess.
From that list, ask yourself what skills you can gain that will turn your weaknesses into strengths. How can you build upon your strengths to become an expert and an invaluable asset?
If you are having trouble identifying what skills are valuable, look at the LinkedIn profiles of people who are a position of two ahead of you. If you’re able to, schedule an informational interview with them to discuss what you can improve on.
Another way to do this is to look at industry trends. What is the up and coming software and technology you should know about? What are the predictions for your industry in the next few years? Start working now to get ahead of them.
3. What are your career goals for the next 3-5 years?
Sometimes when I ask people this question, they have no idea how to respond. Many of us aren’t even thinking about six months from now, nevertheless five years into the future. But it doesn’t have to be as complicated as it seems.
For example, you can start by asking yourself that when you’re looking back in five years, what do you hope you have accomplished? Are you working from home or managing a team of creatives? Have you won an award and grown your family? Have you traveled the world and established yourself as an industry leader?
Remind yourself that setting flexible goals is better than setting no goals at all.
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4. What does your ideal day look like?
Many people thrive in their careers because they pay attention to the flow of their energy. Are you more of a morning person or a night owl? Do you prefer a slow morning or a work-heavy morning?
Sketching out your ideal day based on your different commitments and energy levels can be an indication for what type of industry or career path is best suited for your next step.
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5. Who are your career role models and/or silent mentors? What do their career paths look like?
A silent mentor is someone you admire and emulate from afar. Instead of a formal relationship, these are the individuals you learn from and can model your own career path off of.
Take some time to do research on them by looking up articles they may have been quoted in, viewing their favorite TED Talks, listen to their favorite podcasts, and view their LinkedIn profile — these are rich resources for information.
When it comes down to it, most of us do not follow a linear path through life. Growth is always a good and desirable outcome, so matter what next step you decide to take, you should always aim to move in the direction of growth. The worst thing you can do for yourself is become complacent and be too comfortable. It might be hard and challenging, but those are signs that you are on the right path.