Figuring out your interests may not sound that interesting. You probably feel like you have a pretty good sense of what you like and don't like. But this is bigger than brussels sprouts and cupcakes.
The trick with self-assessment is to stay open and not think that you know everything about yourself.
A lot of us grew up being told what we should be for, what we should be against, how we should spend our time, and how we shouldn't. Maybe it's time to quit "shoulding" all over ourselves and explore the possibilities.
The idea here is not necessarily to find a job doing everything you love and nothing you don't love. Most jobs involve some 'don't loves'.
Explore your resistance
What would you do if you weren't afraid? What if you ignored, for just a few minutes, all of the reasons why you don't think you can have what you want?
When have you been discouraged to pursue something you like? Do you believe deep down that you don't get to be happy, or at least until everyone around you is? Do you think that a project is not worthy unless you suffer adequately to justify the effort? Are you living someone else's dream and goals?
What is holding you back from doing the things you love, or even just want to try? Doing some self-assessment exercises can help you figure this out.
There's a great Shel Silverstein poem that perfectly sums up this idea:
"Listen to the mustn'ts, child.
Listen to the don'ts.
Listen to the shouldn'ts, the impossibles, the won'ts.
Listen to the never haves, then listen close to me...
Anything can happen, child.
Anything can be."
What's your anything?
Explore the unknown
After you've investigated your resistance and some of the things in your way, look at some things you've always been curious about but haven't explored. Don't assume you know what you're looking for until you have spent a little time exploring what's possible. Many jobs that exist today did not exist even 5 years ago. Think about how much your phone has changed in the last 10 years.
You're probably thinking, okay fine, but I have bills to pay and need a job now. Most of us have been there and completely understand. Do whatever you need to do to survive. But don't stop there. Explore possibilities, try new things on in your head and see how they feel. Don't limit your possibilities before you even know what they are.
Where to look
When I'm trying to understand something about myself and my interests, I scan my bookshelves. I love books and have a bit of a book acquisition problem. But even if I don't read everything that comes in the house, the books I've chosen tell me something about what I've been interested in in the past few years. Browsing through a bookstore or library can also be a great way to see what looks fun and interesting.
Ask yourself the following questions:
- What makes you smile?
- What makes you mad?
- How have the things (and people) you love (and don't love) affected your life and decisions?
It doesn't have to be some deep soul-searching exercise. Just go with your first answer. Then let the answers rest a few days and see if there's something you would add or change.
Self-assessment of your likes and dislikes will give you insight into the jobs you'll be happier in and the jobs you want to work to develop skills and experience for.
It's also not a one and done process. You are a dynamic, growing, work in progress. Our hearts often make decisions and have longings way before our minds and self-concepts catch up.
Take the time to explore you. You're worth it.
Read on for more ways to make your job search a success: Job Searching: What Do You Want To Do When You Grow Up
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