Eszter Boros, founder of the Careers in the Common Good project, helps us with some very useful advice:
I wish I could talk to my twenty-year-old self and tell her a handful of important lessons I learnt. This is what I would tell her – not just my story, my learnings – but those of the collective community of Careers in the Common Good, the reflective stories of our facilitators.
1. Take a gap year
Better said: Take time off from the path you’ve been on and do something different. I do not necessarily mean pack your bag, book a one-way flight and discover South America. That is an option for some, but not for all. Depending on your responsibilities, personal preferences and available resources, it can mean a variation of things. Go on a vacation by yourself. Explore the less frequented countryside. Volunteer in your town or abroad. Work in a sector you had nothing to do with before. The point is, take a break from your everyday routine, get out of your known environment and discover something new about the world. In the process, you will discover something new about yourself, I guarantee.
The four panelists of our last Explore Inspiring Career Paths panel were a diverse bunch but they could agree on this: take a gap year.
2. Learn to say no
You received a job offer via a friend, your uncle or your professor. It feels great, doesn’t it? You were offered a new opportunity at work: big project, relocation or new department. It is tempting to say yes. Before you do, take a minute and think about why you are saying yes.
In May’s panel, we formulated the big question: Is it something you want to do because you’re passionate about it or is it something you “should” do?
Of course, there can be phases when you are happy to say yes to any job – you should not reject “a boring office job” if you cannot pay next month’s rent otherwise. It is nevertheless important to be aware of *why* you said yes.
The better you know your goals, the easier it will be to know where your yeses and nos should fall. You can discover your preferences by trying different jobs, by attending a seminar or by other form of self-reflection, such as journaling.
3. Don’t marry your first job
We are unlikely to marry the first person we date or, similarly, to retire from the first job we take. Shop around, see what you like. Is 9 to 5 for you? How do evening and weekend shifts feel? What is it like to always be out of town for business? Do you prefer a small NGO’s basement office or a multi’s open floor?
Needless to say, there are benefits to all options and depending on your circumstances, your preferences will change. I used to love night shifts, because we had the next week off and I could visit friends. I now prefer working in a quiet room during “office hours” and dedicating my weekends to nature.
If you’re a freelancer, you might have flexibility setting your schedule and choosing your clients – but you might have to improve your organisational skills and answer emails on the weekend. There is no right or wrong but it is valuable to gain first-hand job experience so you can make up your mind.
4. Zig-zag your career path
We often live with the impression that there is one clear path leading up to one ideal job. In our bimonthly panel discussions, we invite panellists who have found a position where they are happy and work toward the common good. We always ask them to share their path: how did they get there? What were their milestones?
What we see is that the paths are windy and often unpredictable, or as our participants described: “careers are zig-zag”. Our former participants in 2019 found great comfort and inspiration in knowing that even the most accomplished, successful young professionals had moments of doubt, rejection and fear.
The professional trajectory is everything but a straight line. And often you will try things where you cannot be certain of the outcome. Studies, interviews, internships, relocations, projects. There will be challenges along the way, in any and all departments of life.
5. Craft *your* path
Who do you go to for advice? It can be valuable to get advice from friends, colleagues, bosses, professors, family, mentors (or even this article). Ask for their opinion and experience: How did they find jobs? What would they include in a motivation letter? What did they like most or least about a certain workplace? But in the end, your career path is yours, and only you will live it.
So take that input, mix it well and keep what suits you. Based on your unique skills, interests and passions, you can craft your own path. Who will know you better than yourself? Become your own expert and don’t think so much about what others are doing.
You wonder, how can you make an impact?. Let us quote our panelists in August 2020 “whatever you do, you can find the common good in it”.
This is one of the cornerstones of our workshops and panels. You can craft your unique path in a supportive and intimate community in CCG workshops.
These are some of the most important tips we’ve collected in the last year of online panels and workshops. We work with a wide network of facilitators across the continent and beyond, and we love their unique stories and experiences. There are surprising similarities and shocking differences – but we can always learn from them.
What can I do with all this advice? I cannot time travel and share it with my twenty-year-old self. But turns out, in a way, I can still tell her all this. I can tell my thirty-something-year-old self the same key learnings, and I still have plenty of time to work that into my career path. Surprisingly enough, our career path is far from final when we turn thirty.