What’s next for you? Where do you see yourself in five years? Ten years down the road? If trying to answer these questions with surety puts a knot in your stomach, you’re not alone.
In a survey by Deloitte’s Shift Index, 80 percent of people are dissatisfied with their jobs. And a survey by the Bureau of Labor Statistics found that on average, young adults held an average of about seven jobs between the ages of 18 and 28. These numbers tell us that many of us are restless—or at least still questioning our life trajectory.
The good news is that there’s hope—no matter how stuck or lost you may feel in your education, career, or personal life goals. Here are some practical and realistic moves to make when the right path forward feels unclear.
01. Know thy MBTI.
This ancient Greek aphorism is a fundamental step for anyone with question marks for their future. Licensed Professional Counselor and Verily contributor Julia Hogan suggests self-reflection as the most helpful strategy when trying to understand what motivates and fulfills you: “Knowing your preferences, motivators, and passions can help you find a career you will thrive in instead of one you feel stuck in.”
Especially when you have no idea what you want to do, getting to know yourself better—your personality, preferences, and tendencies—should be the first step forward. There are lots of resources, but one to try is the MBTI. The Myers-Briggs Type Indicator assessment will help you discover your preferences and understand how you best express and receive information, which can point you in the direction of the path that is right for you. Whatever resource you turn to, gaining more self-knowledge is a huge first step to picking a direction for your life.
02. Find out which one of the Four Tendencies fulfills you.
Lacking a sense of direction doesn’t mean you don’t have meaning in your life—it just means that you haven’t capitalized on the force that drives you. Life and career coach Cynthia Pong, JD, finds that deriving a sense of meaning and fulfillment is a matter of fit for a person at a particular point in time. “Nothing beats being in tune with yourself, your own inner ambitions and dreams, and some good old trial-and-error to give you real-world feedback on your career decisions,” she tells Verily. “If you make decisions thoughtfully and intentionally, every step you take is going to get you closer to the work you should be doing and the career you want.”
Gretchen Rubin, author of The Happiness Project, has a helpful framework called The Four Tendencies, which distinguishes four primary ways in which people respond to external expectations (such as deadlines) and internal expectations (such as New Year’s resolutions). What motivates you to achieve your goals? Are you an Upholder, Obliger, Questioner, or Rebel? Answering this question will help you zero in on what your calling may be.
03. Network how you want to network.
Certified Professional Coach Mallory Moskowitz says networking is essential to calibrating your vocational compass. “Keep growing your personal and professional network, and reach out to them when you’re feeling lost,” she says. “If you’re really unsettled in your current position and you put the feelers out to your network, they may know of a new great opening that you would be perfect for.”
Knowing your MBTI can help pinpoint your networking strengths. Maybe it energizes you to attend networking events where you can ask strangers, “How did you get to where you are now?” or “What is your No. 1 advice for finding direction?” and apply it to your own life. Or perhaps you feel more comfortable initiating connections on LinkedIn or asking questions of your immediate network of family, friends, and acquaintances. However you prefer to network, asking these kinds of questions will give you a clearer sense of direction.
04. Just keep swimming; it’s a lesson in fortitude.
If networking and finding what motivates you still hasn’t helped you clarify your vocational path, the best thing you can do is to stay active and engaged in the work you are doing now. Even if you feel your current job is less than ideal, for example, the experiences will provide you with necessary skills—such as learning to be accountable, teamwork, and developing self-discipline—that will be invaluable for any role.
“To keep moving forward, you must keep moving,” Moskowitz says. “Stay active in your company’s community and in your personal life as well, stay physically active, check out new places around your town, and keep meeting new people.” When in doubt, keep going. Even if you don’t know whether you’re moving forward, you’re at least moving somewhere.
Even if your life path seems unclear at the moment, be strategic, be vigilant, and persevere, and you can be sure you’ll find yourself exactly where you’re meant to be.