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ask a career coach

The question:

I am currently working in a career that is financially rewarding, but offers little else. I am a twentysomething passionate about film, media and travel, but have been unable to focus on a program or career path that I can get excited about. I do not want to go back to school only to find the jobs available to me are unrewarding, low-paying, or non-existent. Any suggestions?

The answer:

Finding more meaningful work is a worthy and important goal. You shouldn't settle for less. But without the proper reflection and research the search can be akin to finding the holy grail: A nice concept – but elusive. Let's make sure your search is more productive. You need some better rudders to sail this journey!

For starters, it's great that you have identified some of your some passions. I encourage you to reflect more and learn more about your interests, strengths and what makes you tick. It's also important to research any areas that may be of interest. You are right – it's not a good idea to jump into an intensive program of study without having a sense as to what the possibilities might be once completed.

First start with taking time to identify your unique strengths, values and priorities. In what conditions do you feel most alive and authentic and most apt to perform your best? Reflect on past experiences (at work or in personal life) and mine for "nuggets" that reveal themes that are important to you. For instance, are you most engaged when you are challenged? Intellectually stimulated? Creatively expressed? Physically active? Part of a team? Flying solo? Creating something meaningful? Helping others? Working for a cause?

Being able to name and claim some of your needs and attributes can help guide your career exploration to find more rewarding work.

And yet with all that – there still could be many different options for you. It's rare that there is only one perfect path.

Dig a little deeper before dismissing your current work as offering nothing of value beyond the financial. Use this experience to identify what specifically isn't working and what you would like instead. Consider what drew you to this position and if you had any hopes for a particular experience or any aspect of the job that attracted you? Did you learn new and valuable skills and knowledge? Are you attributing your dissatisfaction to this specific job and circumstances, or the entire career path?

Regarding your interests in film, media and travel, how much heart do you have for making one of these part of your career or can you simply keep these interests alive in your personal life. It might be helpful to talk to people in these industries (network!) and ask them about their career experiences.

Some possibilities to consider are to seek work that involves travel. Or you can test out a career with a part-time job on the side or start your own small venture – in media or film perhaps, if you have enough of the skills to start. I discussed the opportunities and challenges of dual careers in a previous article.

Going back to school is always a good idea to stay fresh and gain new skills. But there are no guarantees to employment just because you took a course. You'll still likely need to be tenacious and resourceful to find work opportunities. Ask yourself how willing are you to work hard for something you want?

While I am encouraging you to do more reflection and research don't despair if this takes time. Sometimes trial and error can be valuable in itself. Glean some learning along the way from each opportunity. And if going this journey solo isn't working for you – seek support to help you reach your goals.

Eileen Chadnick is a work-life coach and principal of Big Cheese Coaching in Toronto.

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