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Design Your Life Before it Designs You

Here’s one of the best pieces of advice that a youngster starting out on their career path could ever receive….

“If you don’t design your own life plan,

chances are you’ll fall into someone else’s plan.

And guess what they have planned for you?

Not much.”

 (Jim Rohn)

Come to think of it, many professionals drift from one dead-end job to another, disillusioned with their lot in life.

According to research conducted in 2008/2009 by CMyPeople and Galaxy Research, over half of Australian workers did not plan their careers but stumbled into them! This partially accounts for the figure of 2.2 million working Australian being dissatisfied in their job.

If you want to buck this trend the time to start is now. The longer you head down the wrong path the more you risk being pigeonholed by employers into a career you never wanted.


What’s Your Vision?

It’s one thing to be an “opportunist” and wait till you’re in the right place at the right time to make the next move in life, but what if it never comes?

Besides, unless you have some understanding of where you want to go, how can you be sure you’re heading in the right direction?

You owe it to yourself to spend some time thinking about what you really want to do – and then to break down the steps of how to get there. As Jim Rohn says, nobody else has got much planned for your life – if you just let it happen, it can quickly pass you by.

Here are some typical questions to ask first up, to at least get you thinking about the way ahead:

  • What are my passions?
  • What am I good at?
  • What are my main strengths and skills?
  • What jobs exist that would enable me to use my strengths and skills?
  • What academic qualifications do I need to do those jobs, if any?
  • What other skills would I need to learn to do that job?
  • Am I prepared to study and work at obtaining those skills – even if I’m not making the money I want to earn?

The last point is often the stumbling block. Many youngsters are not prepared to take the financial “hit”, so they end up staying in the job purely because the money seems good.

If you are young, free and single, the money is an obvious attraction, but you should also understand that this may be the one time of your life when you have the freedom to be able to strive for what you want, without too many financial burdens on your shoulders.

You should cherish this time and be prepared to take a financial risk for the chance of doing something you love.


The Plan: From Vision to Action

Although it may seem like some people get “lucky” and land the best jobs by chance, you rarely see the hard work and preparation that precedes it.

Once you have your vision you need a plan and then be prepared to put it into action. Getting the job you want usually takes patience, commitment and effort.

If it’s a particular industry you’re trying to get into, join some discussion groups. Try to talk to people who have successfully navigated all the obstacles to get where they are; most will be only too keen to help if they recognise that you share the passion for what they do, and they can help light the way for you. Use LinkedIn or the other professional and social networks to help you hook up with the right people to get conversing with.

The next steps may involve some of the following:

  • Take the time to get qualified and/or get trained in the skills, if necessary. It may require a college course or evening classes – but if you want it, it’s worth it.
  • Look out for entry level positions – even if they are low pay or not in the location you hoped for, the first step is the crucial one to take.
  • Prepare a resume that demonstrates your suitability for the career, as well as your passion and commitment to succeed.
  • Apply for suitable jobs.

Remember a few important interview techniques that will keep your application at the top of the pile:

  • Prepare well for any interviews by answering sample interview questions – it may seem silly, but ask a friend or family member to interview you. Make sure they ask you all the tricky questions that might crop up.
  • Research the particular company you get an interview with and pre-prepare some questions to ask them
  • Don’t be afraid to show your keenness to learn, your knowledge of the industry and your drive to succeed in the interview
  • Follow up with an email or thank you letter

The above should give you a good chance of starting to design the life you want, rather than stumbling upon a life that was designed for you.

And guess what? We’re not making this up!

In the study mentioned in the introduction, of the 25% of Australian workers who actively planned their careers, over 80% were satisfied with their current jobs.

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