Three Ways to Decide What to be When You Grow Up

Recently, I have had to explain to people what is it that I want to do. This question is difficult to answer for two reasons. The first reason is I am not yet strongly pulled into a specific position. My ideal answer would be "I want to do X role at company Y." Short. Concise. Memorable.

So far, I do not have that answer.

These are the things I am doing to get that answer:

1. Learn about areas of interest by reading books. Commit to reading one book every two weeks. Familiarize yourself with your local library, and browse until you find something that looks interesting. Follow the rabbit hole by flagging (mentally or on paper) interesting topics or references in that book as you read.

Once you have finished that book, go find books related to the interesting topics you already noted. Keep this up, and you should soon have a body of knowledge related to ideas interesting to you. You improve in other ways by learning a little self-discipline and you learn to read with a purpose. I've recently been picking books from this list.

2. Spend money on information interviews.

Do you know an interesting person, or someone who seems to do interesting work? Invite them out for coffee. This meeting is not a place to beg for a job, or prove to them how smart you are. It is an informational interview, and you are interviewing them.

To you, this person is a VIP (Very Important Person) and you should treat them with respect and care. Reach out to them via email and invite them out to coffee at a time and place convenient to them. You're paying, of course, because you value getting to hear more about them, what they do, and why they do what they do.

Most people enjoy talking about themselves (I know I do) and if they are indeed interested in the work they do, they may enjoy sharing about that as well. Use informational interviews to learn relevant information that you could not gain in any other way.

3. Learn to market yourself.

Do you have skills? Presumably you do; at a minimum you can use a computer, and are literate. That won't get you very far, unfortunately, so you need to either gain new skills, or discover skills you already have. "Being yourself" is not good enough.

Discover skills you already have:

Think long and hard about things that you have done, and how those things could mesh with needs someone else has. Your resume should not be a list of cool things you have done, but a list of ways you meet needs and add value to your little corner of the world. Read the first item of this Cracked.com article for an explanation.

There are many examples of skills you have, and may not even know it. Can you walk dogs? Someone out there needs a dog walker. How about babysitting? Does someone needs a good receptionist? Maybe you're quite friendly and good at answering phones. Receptionists that work in classy businesses make good money. If a client walking in the door represents a contract worth hundreds of thousands of dollars, or millions of dollars, that company will pay top dollar to make sure the first person that client sees is professional, attentive, and sympathetic.

Gain new skills:

Take some classes at Udacity.com. Learn a little about marketing, business management, data analysis, financial planning, software design, computer-user interface, or whatever else tickles your fancy. Draw connections between topics that others do not. Watch your world grow.

I want to do X at company Y.

None of these items listed above will give you that answer, but they will make set you down a path of learning to move you in that direction. When you do find a direction to go, you'll be more qualified to do whatever it is you want to do.