From the time we’re kids, people are asking us: What do you want to do when you’re grown up? While hardly any of us really became actresses, athletes or ballerinas, we’re always told that we must have a career plan in order to be successful.
Early in our school lives, we need to decide what specialty we want to choose, which path we want to follow. We’re always pushed to have a plan and most of us start seriously thinking about what they want to be already at the young age of a teenager.
If you’re like me and you never really had an idea what you want to do in life, you start feeling really bad and really stressed. All these people around me already knew what they wanted to become in life. And me, nothing.
I had no clue. I only knew what I didn’t want to do: become a teacher, like my parents or become a doctor because I’m not a fan of seeing blood. I’d definitely not work in banking because I wasn’t a fan of maths either.
I considered studying law because my uncle is a judge and it seemed like a job with a great work-life-balance (at least it seems like observing him) but law seemed too dry and boring for me.
Basically, I had no idea what I wanted to be. I knew I wanted to go to university and study something. But what? Most of the curricula sounded too scientific (chemistry, physics, maths), too fluffy (social sciences, business sciences, political sciences, media sciences – what does that even mean?) or too “interesting but there’s no money in that” (history of art, archeology).
I opted for languages because that’s what I was good at. I chose translation studies because the only other option would have been to become a teacher and I had already ruled that out.
So step number one to your successful career is: Don’t panic, just follow your interests and do what you’re good at.
As I approached my diploma, people kept asking me: what do you want to do after your studies? Do you want to be an interpreter? Do you want to be a translator? Don’t you think you should also study something else?
Something more substantial, like business sciences… There are not many positions which need languages in that area where you live. Will you move? I didn’t really have a clue but I thought, I’d figure something out once I had my degree.
This is the second important factor for your successful career: Trust in your abilities and that things will work out, even if you don’t see the clear path ahead.
I did move after my studies, but not for the job. Once I arrived in Germany, I found a job as a team assistant thanks to my language skills.
The trouble was, after a few months, I was incredibly bored. There was way too little work for me and the work was not challenging. I had identified another No Go, so I changed. I moved into customer service, again thanks to my language skills. There it started out similar. Way too little to do, I got sooo bored.
So I offered help to the team manager, which lead to me deputizing her and finally being offered the job as a team manager. If you’d asked me before, I’d never have thought about this as a career option.
So here’s my third piece of advice: Don’t stick with a job that’s not right for you. Take action and ask for additional responsibilities.
From that point on, I learned a lot about recruiting, team management, career management, account management, marketing, social media, content management, and project management. I realized what my great strength is: I’m a super fast learner.
I find it really easy to gain a basic understanding of almost everything: technical devices, supply chain, pharmaceutical industry, setting up a website, running my own business, social media marketing… The list goes on and on… ok, it would probably stop at quantum physics. But who really needs that, right?
This is the key to your successful career: learn as much as you can, even if you don’t know when these skills will come in useful. They will be useful at some point. Keep learning! In addition, you will always be able to include additional skills in your resume.
Why am I telling you all this? Because I don’t want you to freak out about not having a master plan for your life since the age of 12. You don’t need to have your life figured out as a teenager.
You don’t need to have it figured out as a tween either. Most people who have a plan will sooner or later realize that life doesn’t always go according to plan. That’s what life is. Unpredictable.
So don’t despair. Not everyone of us has a passion from childhood years on. Many of us have the problem that we have many interests but not this burning fire for something in particular. That’s ok. Figuring out your life is the biggest part of life.
Don’t worry if you have no clue what you want to do and don’t listen to all the naysayers who are trying to put doubts in your head. Remember that they are speaking from their own experience, limiting beliefs and insecurities. They probably mean well but their advice often comes from a place of fear.
So just follow what you find interesting. Build on your strengths and figure it out from there. You’ll discover new interests and new strengths along the way. The world today is not as linear as it was in the times of our parents or grandparents.
There is so much change going on, so the most important quality is to learn fast and adapt to a new reality. So don’t worry if you don’t have a vision board or a five-year-plan to success.
You can be very successful as a career changer – as long as you know your strengths, trust in your abilities, have an intrinsic motivation to make the best out of your life and know how to present your skills to a new employer.
When I changed into my current company (yes, I still have a full-time job too), I had no experience at all in the pharmaceutical industry. I could have thought to myself: I don’t stand a chance! I have no experience in this business. Instead, I thought: I’ll figure it out. I have figured everything out so far.
So, I just confidently entered the interview and convinced them that I’m a really fast learner and that I’ll take no time at all adapting to the new environment.
Now it’s your turn to go out there and make the change you want, not the change that seems reasonable. Eliminate what you don’t want to do and don’t be afraid to try something new. Don’t worry about being a career changer.
Never forget: being an allrounder is a big advantage. You just need to know how to sell it: in your resume, in your cover letter, in your job interview, and if you need help with that, you know where to find it.