We all get choices that take us in completely different directions: career in one industry v. another; entrepreneur v. employee; stay-at-home parent v. career outside the home.
These decisions encompass so many variables that it is hard to consider each tradeoff on its own (i.e., compensation, career growth, work/life balance).
Rather, these choices lead to other choices that can impact our entire lives.
Instead of reviewing each option in light of what it offers now, imagine taking each option from start to finish. Write competing biographies based on each choice that you have, and choose the life you want.
Write about the trials you will face. If you are choosing between industries (e.g., journalism v. law), research each industry’s typical career path, growth trajectory, and professional requirements. Write a biography for yourself in each industry based on what is realistically required for what you want to achieve. Once you write down all the work that will go into each career, do you still want both of them? Which of these paths resonates with you? Which of these journeys do you want to take?
Write about the upside and the downside. If you are thinking of starting your own business or taking a job, your biographies should include your business and your target career at its highest and lowest points. How do you feel when you “make it”? What do you lose when things don’t work out? Which of these risks do you want to take?
Write about the legacy you wish to leave. If you are conflicted about work/ life balance, write about what would happen if you took time off now or later or not at all. What is your ideal day in each scenario? What obstacles come in your way and how do you solve them? Do you have regrets? Which dreams do you want to pursue?
It is tempting to make a decision for its short-term value without considering the path it clears for us in the long term. If we make each decision for the short term, we risk combining a haphazard series of events, rather than crafting a life of meaning and purpose.
If we write our biographies now, we write a roadmap for our future and make a conscious decision on where we go.
Caroline Ceniza-Levine is co-founder of SixFigureStart a career coaching firm for Gen Y professionals. Formerly in corporate recruiting and retained search, Caroline has recruited for Accenture, Booz Allen, Citibank, Disney ABC, Oliver Wyman, Pfizer, and Time Inc. She currently writes career columns for Portfolio.com and Vault.com and teaches Professional Development at Columbia University School of International and Public Affairs.
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