What we want to do vs. who we want to be

Most early career advice revolves around finding what we want to do. While picking that mix of industry and function is important, it matters that we also invest in understanding who we want to be.

We may occasionally find a role that is perfect for us at a given period of time. But, if we don’t do the work to understand our motives, values, and long term life priorities, it gets harder to make the sort of career decisions that help us shape both our careers and our lives.

Work is an important part of our lives – but, for most folks, it isn’t life. So, fitting life decisions based on career choices instead of the opposite is an approach that has it backwards. Anyone who has tried it knows that any success you experience will feel incomplete. And, the most predictable outcome of this approach is burn-out at work and unhappiness at home.

This isn’t an either-or choice. We can’t have who we want to be figured out when we are 21 and then start on a career that is a perfect fit. Instead, it is a constant, iterative, process that we need to invest in parallel. With intentional investment, thought, and time, these paths will begin to converge.

And, when it does, the juice will feel well worth the squeeze.