Career Choices and Career Success

I am always looking for interesting content for this career advice blog.  Recently, Kristie Lewis who writes for a site called asked if she could share her story about her career success journey.

When she sent it to me, I realized that Kristie’s story is some great career advice about clarifying the purpose and direction for your life and career – the first point I make about life and career success in my new book Climbing the Corporate Ladder.  Here is Kristie’s story.

Few decisions have as much impact on your life as choosing your career.  Choosing your major in college is a close second, mostly because, at least to some extent, the major you choose in college will influence the kind of jobs you get, and the path that your career follows.

Choosing a career (or a major in college) also happens to be one of the most difficult choices you will ever make, especially if you are trying to choose for the first time.  For many (like myself), the pressure was so great, that I stopped trying to decide where my life was going, instead focusing on just getting a job, which was no small feat in and of itself.

Similarly, a great many students choose their majors haphazardly, almost as if at random.  Growing up they may have wanted to pursue one field, but when the time comes to actually choose, it’s easy to panic and just pick something, anything, so that you don’t have to face the thought that your decision is actually changing the course of your life.

Why are these decisions so hard?  The answer to the question is a little different for careers and majors, but essentially the difficulty stems from our unwillingness or inability to determine what it is that we really care about.

After graduating with an English degree (which I chose largely because family and friends told me I was an excellent writer, and not necessarily because I loved English), I started applying for jobs at just about any company I thought would hire me.

I worked as a tutor, as an assistant gaffer on movie and television sets, a content writer, and even as a waiter, just scraping by for years.

It was during my stint as a writer, though, that I realized how arbitrary my decisions had been.  I was making enough money to survive (which, in this economy, is something to be grateful for), but I was miserable at work, filled with boredom, listlessness, and worst of all, purposelessness.

Up to that point in my life, I had not mapped out my passions, had not analyzed my own interests and goals, at least not with any specificity.

Many, many people fall into this though-trap — “go to school, get a job, start a family, retire.”  I was one of those people.  My life had been a series of decisions that weren’t guided by any overarching goal or desire; I was just following the vague path that I thought would lead me to success.

To be fair, there isn’t anything inherently wrong with the thought pattern.  Generally it is important to go to school, you do have to get a job to survive, most people want a family, and eventually you will retire.

The problem with the thought-process is that it isn’t specific to you as a person with unique ideas, goals, and dreams.  If you live your life based on an impersonal goal outline, you will leave yourself feeling purposeless, chasing irrelevant or insubstantial dreams, caught up in the rat race.

Which is exactly what happened to me.

Eventually the unhappiness at my writing job got the better of me, and I decided it was time to move on.  At the time, I still wasn’t thinking about a direction or purpose — I just knew I needed to get out of there as soon as I could.

So I resigned.  Strangely, however, the melancholy wasn’t alleviated; not after I quit, and not ever weeks later as I carried on a search for a new job.  I had a feeling hanging over me like history repeating itself, could almost see myself starting another writing job with some other company, doing exactly the same thing at another company.

Our intuition is almost always right about things like that, and I had taken enough punches from life to stop and listen this time.  What am I doing? I thought to myself.  And it was one of the best questions I ever asked.

I realized that I had been so unhappy at the writing job because it was unfulfilling and didn’t give me a sense of purpose.  It also occurred to me that I would continue to be unhappy until I found a job that was aligned with my goals.

And then it hit me: I had never truly thought about what, specifically, my own goals were.

Talk about stunned.  I grabbed a pen and a pad, and started brainstorming ideas, questioning all the assumptions: do I really enjoy writing? What are my real interests? How do I want to live? Where do I want to live?  Do I want to work 40 hours a week? More? Less?

Half an hour later, I had made more progress toward finding a career that would give me purpose than I had in the ten years prior.  The moral of the story is: don’t just act — think.  Question everything.  Listen to your heart when it tells you there’s more to life than whatever it is you’re doing now.  And then write it down.

Kristie’s last point is the common sense career success advice I want to leave you with today.  “Listen to your heart when it tells you that there’s more to life than whatever it is you’re doing now.”  As Tweet 7 in my career advice book Success Tweets says, “Figure out what you really want to do.  Work you love will make it easier to create the life and career success you want and deserve.”

That’s Kristie Lewis’ story on clarifying the purpose and direction for your life and career.  I like it.  In my opinion, it’s some great career advice.  What do you think?  Please take a minute to share your thoughts with us in a comment.  As always, thanks for reading my daily musings on life and career success.  I value you and I appreciate you.


PS: If you haven’t already done so, I suggest that you check out my career advice book Success Tweets and its companion piece Success Tweets Explained.  The first gives you 140 bits of career success advice tweet style — in 140 characters or less.  The second is a whopping 390 + pages of career advice explaining each of the common sense tweets in Success Tweets in detail.  Go to to claim your free copy.  You’ll also start receiving my daily life and career success quotes.

PPS: Have you seen my membership site, My Corporate Climb?  It’s devoted to helping people just like you create career success inside large corporations.  You can find out about it by going to http://www.mycorporateclimb.



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