Choosing a new career you love can feel impossible if all you know is “I don’t know what I want to do, but I know it’s not THIS!”

Keep reading to learn how to build on that starting point. (It may not feel like a starting point, but it is.)

When I talk with a new career change client and say, “Hey, paint me the picture. What would meaningful work look like for you? Forget about job titles, forget about business ideas. Let’s think about the DNA of the thing. What might meaningful work consist of for you?”

Sometimes they draw a total blank and say, “Laura, I don’t even know where to start. It’s a blank slate up here. I’ve got nothing.”

And that’s common. If you have been doing work that’s out of alignment with your wants and needs, you can lose the ability to dream and think of other possibilities. Your imagination atrophies. Your hope dwindles. And you have no other option but to resort to coping mechanisms like “I guess this is as good as it gets” and “work is called work for a reason.”

Those are coping mechanisms to allow you to just keep plodding on without questioning your current situation. It’s survival mode.

And when I ask, “What might meaningful work consist of for you?” there’s nothing there because you have become so guarded against disappointment and getting your hopes up that you just can’t even think that way anymore.

Questioning is vulnerable. Hoping is vulnerable. Imagining a new future is vulnerable. Because it means you mean you might not get what is in your heart.

So instead, part of you just shuts it down. Have you experienced this?

The good news is, we can get your imagination going again. We can start to take some of the armor off your heart and let you hope again.

My Unexpected First Step

In the fall of my senior year of college, I still wasn’t sure what I wanted to do with my life. I was about to graduate with a history degree and I didn’t want to teach, work in a museum, or go to law school. I didn’t know WHAT I wanted to do.

The career center at my college was offering some kind of workshop about how to get your resume in front of companies that were hiring. I did NOT want to attend this thing, but I went so that my mother, no doubt wracked with parental panic about my future, would quit nagging me about it.

It was one of the most valuable workshops I ever attended. Not because I polished my resume, learned how to get a job, or even figured out what I wanted to do.

It was valuable because I got very clear on what I did NOT want. I took notes:

I knew that the world of work they were trying to sell me on was NOT for me.

I did not, would not, EVER belong to the club they wanted me to scrape and bow and contort myself into.

I left it very clear that I would be making my own way. I didn’t know what that would look like, only that it would be mine and that I would feel like myself in it.

I keep this scrap of paper, 22 years later, as a reminder of my very own “I don’t know what I want to do, but I know it’s not THIS!” moment. Because rejection is better than a blank slate. Friction is better than a blank slate.

Your First Step to Choosing a New Career You Love

My invitation to you is to create your very own reasons not to do this list. Or what I have my clients create: A Hell No List. Hell No, I don’t ever want THIS again. Write down your Hell Nos.

And then here’s the backdoor trick: Next, write your Hell Yes list. Which is simply the opposite of your Hell Nos.

This one exercise is not enough for choosing a new career you love. But it can take you from a blank slate to a starting point.

Laura Simms is an expert in meaningful work who challenges conventional wisdom by asking people to ditch their passions and start with purpose.

If you have too many passions, zero passions, or can't seem to combine your passions, try her purpose-first approach to find a career you love.  


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